American Election An Expat Perspective

12665885-silhouette-of-a-sad-politician-on-american-flag-background-with-vintage-look-stock-photoTo me it’s not about politics. It’s not about liberal or conservative or agreeing to disagree on what we each think is the best way to ensure that the US is a great place to live.

It’s about the values  I thought we held regardless of our political leanings.

After hearing the election results on November 9, I cried. I felt a gut wrenching fear and despair that knowing there was no turning back. I walked out the door and wanted to keep walking right off the planet. My disappointment was magnified thousand-fold with the heartbreaking knowledge that half of the nation believes in a leader whose platform was filled with empty slogans and derogatory rhetoric based on repression, intolerance, bigotry, misogyny and ignorance.

I know that realistically not all those who voted support those views and that they have very legitimate reasons for wanting change, I know that for many it was an act of anger, frustration and hopelessness, not racism or misogyny. But it’s hard for me to feel that in so-voting, those views, which I find so abhorrent and antithetical to the very rights we fought so hard for in the past, weren’t being endorsed. Regardless of what happens at a policy-level, I’m fearful of the message that has been sent, of the noxious sentiment that has been aroused, and of the no-longer unrealistic possibility that the rights we have fought for could be taken away, or at the very least not truly be guaranteed for all.

I understood why thousands of Americans took to the streets in protest chanting, « Not my President. »

Not my country either. Not the country I loved so dearly for defending the unalienable rights we hold so true … liberty, justice and freedom for all, not just those who shout the loudest or have the biggest bank accounts or have ancestors born in Western Europe and have less melanin in their skin.

Having lived in Europe for the past 37 years, perhaps I have no right to judge. I do not know what it feels like to be stopped in the street for the color of my skin. Or to be a working class man facing unemployment when my job was outsourced overseas. Or to be homeless waiting in line for a food pantry hand-out. Nor the despair of watching my child grow sicker and weaker due to an inability to afford health care.

But I do know the fear of standing in line in a French immigration office fearing that I will be deported. I do know the humility of depending on German teammates for a roof over my head. And I do know the gratitude of people – international friends and colleagues – who ignored where I came from and accepted me for who I was.

And I know what it feels like to be left out. In the early Title IX days, I left the USA to pursue a dream denied in my homeland. In 1979, I moved to Europe on the heels of the Vietnam War at the height of the Cold War, during the Reagan era.

While living abroad, I tried to mitigate the stereotype of the loud, arrogant, ethnocentric American by speaking softly and keeping a low profile. I demonstrated the ideals of tolerance on which my country was founded by showing respect for others who worshiped different deities, spoke different languages and practiced different customs. As a guest in others homelands, I discovered firsthand through friendship the beauty in our diversity.

I came back to a nation where people were more connected than ever on social media, yet profoundly divided in real life and unable to communicate in civil terms.

Recently retired from teaching abroad, I stayed in the states longer and followed the election with mounting alarm, stunned not just by how vitriolic it turned, but how easily we condoned it. When did the election in one of the greatest democracies become more about digging up dirt on one’s opponent than discussing critical policy issues?

I felt as if I’d been flung back in time to an era when women were objectified, Jim Crow Laws kept blacks in their place, and gays hid in the closet for safety. Trump gave free licence to discrimination. His dismissal of anyone who is not a white American male echoes an Aryan supremacist ideology that nearly destroyed us.

« Make American great again ! » Trump proclaims. What was great about America was that everyone had an opportunity to pursue the Dream.

« Build walls to keep out immigrants ! » America was built on the backbone of immigrants who came here for a better life.

On the heels of Brexit, Trump’s victory, following a campaign filled with disdain for women, minorities, immigrants, gays and the disabled only fuels the extreme right of the world. Marie Le Pen is kicking up her heels in France; Geert Wilders is dancing in Holland.               .

The nightmare I woke up to November 9 reverberates around the globe. We may only worry about what is happening in our neighbourhood, and I get that, but what we don’t realize is that, like it or not, any decision made in America affects the rest of world, environmentally, socially, and economically.

We need to remember that regardless of our political party, religious affiliation, national identity, race or gender, we don’t own this planet.

We cannot go back and change the outcome of the election, but that does not mean we should give up on those ideals. We can speak up for those who are victimized or do not have a voice. We can continue to teach our children to treat everyone with kindness and respect. We can encourage the many politicians in both parties who have condemned Trump’s racist and misogynistic rhetoric to continue to do so.

We can do better.

We must.

Posted in education, inspiration, relationships, social view.


  1. Thank you, Pat!! You voiced my thoughts…we must do better! I wrote Mr. Trump (and my Senators) explaining he wouldn’t be Mr. President to me until he apologized for his bigoted, racist, sexist remarks. I have also made a vow to Read Up, and then Follow Up with letters to my elected officials. I thought it was a joke that Mr. Trump ran for office, seems like the joke was on me!

    • Good for your you Barb. Keep on writing and making your voice heard. I thought it was a joke too and he was a caricature, but sadly no one is laughing especially now that he will be leading our country.

  2. Thank you Pat. You certainly do have a way with words.
    I (along with many others) are feeling a profound sadness in this country we love so much.

  3. Pat, you articulated how so many of us feel. It’s heartbreaking what has happened. Thank you for your thoughtful writing.

    • As someone who has always championed the cause of the underdog, I know that you also feel as disheartened as me and so many others who believe in the goodness in mankind.

    • Thanks Bette. It is a difficult time and everyone I know here is still reeling from the news. I know that you are feeling the pain across the miles and wondering how this will impact Europe and the rest of the world.

  4. Well done Pat! You said it all for me, and with such eloquence. I am still reverberating with the shock of last week’s election. I feel so sad about the profound ramifications we will all feel as a result of this election – both from the build-up and the final voting results. I am concerned for my children who live in the US, for my American friends and for the rest of the world. For, as you say, like it or no, what happens in the States, has a ripple effect across the world.

    • When the news broke, I was wishing I was over there as if distance could make it any less devastating. I wanted to run right next door and see you both to talk and commiserate and try to help process this together. Our big kids, as well as the rest of my family, were shocked and sickened. I dread Jan. 20, but look forward to seeing you in the New Year.

  5. Amen to everything you said. It is such a scary time now. Unprecedented in my life, for sure.

  6. It’s a sad time for America! Your words speak for myself and many other women. How anyone could excuse Trumps vile words and actions is beyond me. Now he speaks of “coming together” after he has torn us in half.
    We are all in a state of shock. We are scared, worried, disgusted and weary from the whole process. It’s so frustrating to see someone who is clearly illiterate when it comes to politics and can’t even form a complete sentence about policy, put in such a position of power. He seems stunned himself with where he is, & what lies ahead for him. God “help” America!

    • Well said Marilyn. How could this ever have happened and where do we go from here? We must stand strong together and continue to speak out. It sure feels like we are going backwards in time when it comes to human rights and it is equally terrifying to thing this guy will be leading the nation.

  7. Beautifully said, Pat. I have nothing to add, other than my undying hope that ‘We, the People” will continue to fight for decency, civility and respect for one another. Thank you for your eloquent message.

    • Yes, Kathy, we must carry on and seek out the best in one another. Our only consolation is that he will surround himself with competent, compassionate, intelligent staff that will keep his power in check, but right now that doesn’t look too hopeful either.

  8. You write with such heartfelt eloquence. Bravo dear brave friend xx The result unleashed anger in me as a woman at the resurgence of misogyny – how could a man could ‘get away with’ his sexual misdemeanours and still be handed power? I read so many articles about this man to try and understand him both before and after the election, but I just can’t. His white male entitlement cuts too deep. The glass ceiling has just been raised. The world has gone mad…

    • Yes, Rach, it sure looks like the old boy network is alive and well. I think your anger is better than defeated despair, so keep on keeping on. Continue empowering women through your writing and teaching and the example you set for your daughters every day.

  9. As of today, November 22, Hillary leads in the popular vote by almost 2 million. Unfortunately, it won’t change the electoral college, so she’ll have to live with that bitter thought, as with so many others (“The FBI threw the election,” “Fake news won the election for Trump”, etc.)
    Pat, here’s how I have come to be able to accept what would otherwise look like horribleness in my fellow Americans. I think of it as a Marie Antoinette vote. As tuned in to the disparity of the 1% as the Democrats claimed to be, nothing was changing. This was a blazing torch-and-pitchforks vote by the disappointed masses–of ALL parties. I’ve said elsewhere it was either a Hail Mary or a hand grenade. Just like in Germany in the 1940s. Trump caught the popular wave of unhappiness; and he raised a scapegoat. The question is, will we have learned from history? I believe so. Stay tuned.

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