I have never been overly involved in politics. I’ve only voted in three elections: the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections, and the most recent gubernatorial election in Pennsylvania. Yet, with the results today, I feel compelled to say something.
Over the past few months, I’ve been glad to have missed the horror that this presidential campaign has been (though I do miss watching the SNL skits…). It’s been a relief not to see the mudslinging commercials. I did watch the first debate, but as it was 1 am here I dozed through a lot of it. I scrolled past most people’s political Facebook posts because I just didn’t want to see or hear the negativity.
However, as the election got closer, I became nervous. Plenty of Guineans asked me my opinion on the election, or shared their own (always Hilary Clinton). As Peace Corps Volunteers we’re advised to stay away from local politics as well as American politics as a discussion topic, so I always tried to keep the conversation short, but my response was always that I supported Hilary, and that I didn’t think Trump would, or could win. He was too extreme and had offended too many people.
My homologue asked me last night if I would stay up to hear the results. I knew it would be the wee hours of the morning here, so I said no. I went to bed pretty confident I would wake to find America had elected its first female president. I thought I would awake proud to be an American.
However, I awoke at 7:11 am to my friend Kelly calling me to tell me Trump had won. She told me she was sorry to wake me up, but she just had to talk to someone about it. I was blown away, shocked and totally taken aback. That was not what I expected at all.
When I went to get water this morning, I asked me homologue if he had heard the results. He said he had, at 5 am this morning, and that he was sorry. I think he could tell I didn’t want to talk about it further. Later, around 1:00 pm, during lunch, I still had no words. He told me that the whole world would now suffer, because America was a premiere presence in the world. That this was a blow for everyone. Guineans across the country are shocked and horrified by the outcome of the election, just as many Americans are.
And why shouldn’t they be? What kind of message does this send to the rest of the world? That we as Americans chose a misogynistic, racist, homophobic white many to lead our country over a qualified, experienced white woman. What happened? What were we thinking? Trump running for president started out as a joke, and now he’s been elected. It’s like a prank gone too far.
I’ve spent nearly two years of my life living overseas. Nearly a year and a half in West Africa and 5 months in Australia. And in each place, no matter the creature comforts I had, the quality of food, the friends surrounding me, I never felt like it was truly home. I always knew I needed to come back to America. That that was where I belonged, because it was home and I was proud to be an American.
Now, for the first time, I’m ashamed and embarrassed. How do I explain this decision to the people around me? How do I justify our choice? I can’t. Because I understand it as little as they do.
Only an American citizen can vote in the elections. We have, and we’ve made our choice. But we’re naïve to think that what the rest of the world think doesn’t matter. We’re a leading power in the world. People look up to us. I was so proud when we legalized gay marriage last year. Now, it’s like we’ve taken a giant leap backwards. What are we saying to the rest of the world as it watches?
As a Peace Corps Volunteer, one of our three goals is to create a better understanding of Americans on the part of the people served. Right now, I’m a little at a loss as to how to do that. But I choose to continue with a positive attitude. I choose to continue with kindness. I choose to continue with tolerance and an open mind. Because while Trump will now be our President, I refuse to uphold the values he has shown. I refuse to treat or speak to people the way he has. And if we as Americans can continue in kindness and support, than we can uphold the ideals our country was built on. If we choose to move on with those values in mind, we can remain proud to be Americans.