Being an American abroad during the 2016 presidential election is a little bit like watching a house go up in flames live on YouTube. You feel like you would be marginally more useful if you were in the house, but in all likelihood, you would be on fire along with everybody else.
I’ve been keeping close tabs on the election for months from wherever I happened to be. The downside of being all the way in Central Europe is that I’m 6 hours ahead of the US. So I constantly woke up bleary-eyed to startling news about locker room talk and emails. I even stayed up an entire night to watch the second debate. I did not make that mistake again.
In preparation for the big night, I bought champagne, because I’m every bit as cynical and jaded as I am absurdly optimistic. No matter what, I was going to enjoy the fuck out of that champagne. I sprang for the good stuff, too (the $6 bottle, instead of the $3 one). Since it is my tendency to worry, though I was expecting a Hillary win, I was also expecting a Purge-like shitstorm caused by people that Trump had already been convincing for weeks that the election was rigged. So I read the analysis and watched news clips (those that are available in my country) and looked at the forecasts.
Then on the eve of November 8, after refreshing Nate Silver’s electoral map close to 1,000 times, I finally fell asleep. I woke up a full 4 hours before most polls opened in the US – the calm before the storm. Mercifully, my favorite modern composer had a concert in Prague last night. What amazing timing to be able to attend something so moving and so calming when I would have otherwise needed a Xanax to get through the last 24 hours. So I spent all day distracted trying to find a ticket to the concert.
With the help of Czech friends who pointed me to their version of Craigslist (Bazos.cz), I got one. As I walked around in the city on the way to get the ticket, I looked around me at the people going about their day. “What is wrong with you people!? Aren’t you worried about being wiped off the face of the planet by a mad man that can’t even be trusted with Twitter?” I thought to myself. Thankfully, they didn’t hear my thoughts while they were out walking their dogs and waiting for the tram.
And that’s perhaps the strangest thing. That while everyone I know back in the US was standing in long lines and watching with bated breath as the future of our nation was decided, people here have only a passing interest in the outcome. Schools weren’t closed, and everyone was working. Because their life is not in the US. And actually, neither is mine at the moment. So as I walked around enjoying the cool breeze and the bright fall colors lit up by the sun, I was able to relax.
I got more Election Day provisions, by which I mean chocolates. I went home and took a long shower, and I stopped refreshing Five-Thirty Eight, because at that point, I might as well just wait for the real results. I had dinner at McDonald’s because I was feeling particularly American. And then I headed to my concert, where I passed the bulk of that really tough evening wait time watching Ludovico Einaudi and his small orchestra fill me with joy and peace. It was a nice reminder on this stressful day that despite everything this election would lead us to believe, there is beauty in this world.
I considered attending some sort of expat watch party afterwards, but I had done the math and by the time the last polls closed on the West Coast, it would be 5 am here. And if previous elections were any indication, I could be having lunch before a winner was announced. Because ultimately, Election Day for me in Europe is the morning of November 9.
And now the sun is rising here in Prague, like it always does, unaware of the darkness that American voters have just plunged us all into. But I’m going to try to remain hopeful, in part because I’m drunk, but also because I’ve thankfully already obtained temporary residency in another country.
But if you happen to be reading this and you’re a Trump supporter, I want to thank you personally.
Because my 401k and the savings I have invested in stocks has plummeted over the course of the last several hours because of how you voted.
Because when I visit home for the holidays, I’m getting tested to determine if those abnormal cells are cervical cancer. And if they are, I likely won’t have health insurance in a couple of months because of my pre-existing condition.
Because if I ever decide to move back to the US and I want to marry a woman (as a proud member of the LGBT community), your future president and especially your vice-president think I should be jailed for attempting to do so.
Because if I were to be sexually assaulted or raped, my assailant would be protected by the policies of a leader who thinks he can do whatever he wants to women’s bodies just because he’s rich.
Because my immigrant family could face legal consequences for attempting to start a better life in the “land of opportunity.”
So thank you for that. And if I know you personally and you voted for Trump, kindly never, ever speak to me again. I do not respect your opinions or your views, because you have no respect for my rights, my well-being, or my safety.
So thank you again and congratulations to your disgusting pig of a candidate. As someone who travels all over the world, this is further evidence of why we are seen as nothing but a bunch of ignorant, intolerant, and arrogant rednecks. This election has shown that that’s exactly what we are. I had dinner last week with a Mexican-born citizen of the Czech Republic who hoped Trump would get elected. He said, “That’s what they deserve. This has been a long time coming for America.” You know what? It’s hard to disagree with that.
I’ll be waiting out the fallout (nuclear or otherwise) from this disaster in my little slice of Czech heaven, with champagne and classical music.
4 thoughts on “Watching the 2016 presidential election from abroad”
Well then. I’m sure you’ve already spoken with many friends back here(especially in Miami)and have some idea of their very similar reactions. Allow me a moment to attempt to describe my own feelings and observations . Those of us who supported Hillary were very optimistic heading into election night. All the polls(yes,ALL of them)gave her a comfortable lead the day before – a path to victory with or without winning Florida. And yes,winning Florida would have helped but ultimately wouldn’t have changed the result (thank you,Rust Belt!).
People were nervous after Florida seemed to be going in the wrong direction but I was still unconcerned. There was simply no way (even after RE-ELECTING George Bush)that a privileged,prejudiced,self-promoting,egotistical misogynist was going to receive the majority of votes in this country. Surely we were finally evolving as a country and would continue the progression toward a more encompassing and compassionate nation on the heels of having elected and re-elected the first African American president,the welcoming of the LGBT community in to the mainstream of society,the push toward equality for minorities,for women,for gun control of some kind.
We(the people who supported Hillary)never saw it coming. It hit like a punch in the gut(or lower)and left many feeling stunned and something akin to watching someone close to you slowly die. We love this country and are forever optimistic and hopeful that we represent what is the best in humanity. That anyone,regardless of race,ethnicity,religious belief,sex,or sexual orientation,rich or poor,immigrant or native born,have the opportunity and RIGHT to have a place at the table. Obviously,we have a long way to go.
What “we” didn’t see was that we had a cancer. It was there all along,we were kind of aware of it,but were trying our best to ignore it and somewhat naively hoped that it would just “go away”. Like all cancers,it didn’t.It just grew large enough that we could no longer ignore it.And now we’re forced with the awful task of dealing with that reality.
But,like most people with cancer,we’ll grit our teeth,endure the pain, take things day by day,do whatever it takes to get through this difficult time. What choice do we have? Running away(leaving the country)is only delaying the inevitable. Instead,we have to face this problem head on,and with steadfast determination,the help of our family and friends,conquer this cancer and wipe it out. There is still life to be lived and the future of the next generation is what keeps us fighting on.
Let us not be deceived. This cancer is far more widespread than we hoped. Brexit was only the beginning of countries feeling like they are losing their national identity. That’s what’s really behind this after all. France isn’t far behind. Germany could be next. The older generation is hanging on and refusing to go quietly into the night. The post-WWII generation is large across the globe and still has power. We just forgot because they haven’t felt the need to wield it. They all want a return to “how things used to be”.
And that’s why America still holds hope for me. The “great experiment” will continue and ultimately move forward. Why do I believe this? Because youth will be served,it just has to wait a while longer. Patience has never been something young people are good at so it’s no surprise they’re upset and angry at the moment. And some of us older people ain’t so happy right now either. But eventually things will improve,the “millenials” will assume power and give rise to a more enlightened society. Even the youthful people of most Middle Eastern countries(including Iran)don’t yet hate us and are willing to meet us half-way. Ultimately,for the world to evolve into something greater,to reach it’s full potential,to realize the HUMAN dream of lasting peace and prosperity, it must become multi-cultural,multi-racial,without borders.But not necessarily homogenized,which is what many fear. We can either live together,evolve together,help each other to become something greater…..or we can draw imaginary lines,build walls,fight over natural resources,the strong dominating the weak and descend into darkness.
The pendulum has swung once again. My eternal hope for the future is that once it swings back(and it will)that it will never swing back again but remain ever pointing in the direction of equality,inclusion,charity,and benevolence. We have only one Earth,and only one life given to us(unless you believe in reincarnation). Will we exploit this planet and our fellow man for temporary personal gratification? Or are we as humans,able to recognize that we are all in this thing together,and share in its riches,its beauty? I have carried the torch for many decades and will continue to do so,to light the way. But soon it I will need to pass it on to someone younger so that it will not be extinguished. Is that you?
Btw,dear Gnome Trotting, I did not mean to imply that YOU were “running away” from this country. I get why you’re over there. I wouldn’t mind living abroad myself.
One final word on the election. I would like to personally thank all of my fellow Americans who voted for Gary Johnson.Just like voting for Ralph Nader back in the day,it was really YOU who tilted the balance in Trump’s direction and ultimately it was therefore YOU who elected him.
Well said. There is a cancer and the cure is education. People voted this way because they are so ignorant that a bloated lying Cheeto was able to convince them that this is the kind of change we need.
I’d also like to add a big fuck you to my fellow Millenials who wasted their vote by writing in Harambe. Honestly, it’s time America learns a hard lesson about the responsibility that comes with democracy. And I hope that the pendulum does swing back, but if and when it does, it will be after a lot of suffering and pain.
And frankly, it’s well-deserved. It’s time we stop being such arrogant twats. It’s just a shame that half the country (the popular vote majority) has to suffer through the same thing for the bigoted idiots that should have probably had to pass an IQ test before casting their ballot.
Trying to let it go, though. I still have a life to live. I appreciate your thoughtful post.
From a friend: “In times like these, I am reminded of Zulema’s famous line on Project Runway. She was a black female contestant on season 2 who was demonized. Her teammate Kara was breaking down, and Zulema let her know: I don’t care if you gotta cry and cut, but cry and cut. Don’t stop and cry – cry and WORK!
Self-care is a must. But at some point, you gotta cut.” We all have a lot of work to do. And we all may feel exhausted now, but we mustn’t tire from doing the right thing. Our country needs us to be vigilant.
Beautifully said. I’m gonna do what I do best.. Cry and travel. Headed to Thailand today! But my heart is with all the people standing up and protesting this injustice in the US.
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