I wanted to take a few days after the election to really gather and process my thoughts before putting pen to paper. I am going to try and keep this post as short as I can because although I am feeling many emotions and have many thoughts on the matter, a lot of them have already been expressed by others far more eloquently than I could ever dream to achieve. Instead, I want to try and provide a different perspective to the 2016 election as an American abroad in Germany.
For a bit of background, I have adamantly opposed Trump since before he was chosen as the Republican nominee. That has, for the most part, been the entirety of my political involvement. I really liked Bernie while he was still running and transitioned to Hillary when he didn’t get the nomination. That said, I don’t think I ever outright and publicly supported Hillary. I don’t think I ever said she would be a great president but I also never believed her to be the crook the Republicans made her out to be. My perspective was that Trump was the absolute worst possible outcome and that anything would be better than him. Therefore I supported my states vote for Hillary Clinton.
Knowing that I never truly backed Hillary but instead opposed Trump at all costs, you can imagine the news that Trump was America’s President Elect was devastating. This is where I think I can begin to provide a new opinion. I did not cry because Hillary lost or even that Trump, as a human being, won. I cried because millions of Americans voted to support ideals that completely destroy all the hard work done by nearly every progressive minority demographic in the USA.
I cried because I have friends worried about being deported, friends worried about losing rights as members of the LGBTQ community, friends worried about their student visas being revoked, friends worried that they can no longer afford healthcare, friends worried about their reproductive rights, friends worried about the environment, friends worried that they will lose everything in the foreshadowed economy. More than that, I cried because unless you appear to be a straight, white man in America, you could be the next target.
Here in Germany, I have received nothing but pity. Pity from my classmates who represent over 30 nationalities from all continents. Pity from my professors who are extremely educated and well respected in their fields of study. Pity from the random strangers who happen to hear my accent and give me supportive grimaces after hearing where I’m from. So far, it has been nothing but emotional support and condolences.
But I worry how long that will last. How long before the words of comfort turn into accusations. How long will it be before the fact that I didn’t vote for him no longer pardons me from the actions of my country. How long will it take for me to go from a fun American novelty to a despised ideological enemy.
Although I have yet to experience it, I cannot imagine that some in Germany and in Europe do not already hold ill will towards America and therefore me. I think we all saw the posts on Facebook likening Trump to Hitler. Well, guess what? America just willingly elected to repeat the history that the USA made Germany pay so dearly for. One of the worst economic periods in German history was after WWII, due in large part to reparations and sanctions enforced by the US. I can imagine it feels a bit hypocritical to some Germans that America is allowed to freely make the decision to repeat such strongly punished history.
Overall, I don’t think that there is a single person in the world who can logically be happy with this election. Obviously if you are liberal, a democrat or simply didn’t vote for Trump, you are not happy, but I think Republicans should be pretty upset too. It is becoming more and more evident (after hearing his acceptance speech, seeing the changes to his website and reviewing his First 100 Days Plan) that he pandered to the Republican party. If you were in support of Trump and his ideals before the election, many of them have changed. What you voted for is not what will come to fruition and that should make you angry.
I don’t even know what I am feeling at this point. Part of me is relieved that I am at least partially removed from the chaos, but the other part of me is torn between worrying about my friends and family, feeling some sort of irrational guilt that perhaps I could have done something if I were home, and trying to think through negative consequences of this election that could be made worse by being abroad.
Since I can’t really give you my closing feelings, I’ll leave you with the photo below from a great brand trying to make the world a better place. I am not going to be one of those people to preach sunshine and daisies at this given moment because, at least for me, a more somber attitude leads to more thorough internal and external evaluations. I think that’s what everyone should be doing right now. Look within and look around. Let emotions fall away and really examine the impact of November 8th, 2016. Is this really what you wanted?
Final Note: I do not claim to know the opinions of the German people or Europe as a whole. My perspectives on the matter are written to reflect possible viewpoints and are purely hypothetical.