An American Abroad During the Rise of Donald Trump

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Trump at an early campaign event in New Hampshire on August 19, 2015

Every morning I wake up a few hours in the future and wonder what I missed while I slept: what new vitriol spat from the mouth of a leading Republican candidate will fill my timeline and news apps today?

The last time I was abroad in Europe was during George Bush’s presidency – I won’t lie, I told people I was Canadian. Nearly every shop or restaurant I went in, I was asked how I felt about him, I was sure to repeat twice that I never voted for him. When I moved to England in September 2014, I was entirely safe from these kinds of questions. I wasn’t quizzed about Obama, in fact, people rarely seemed to ask me anything about how I feel about the American political landscape. Until quite recently.

donald-trump-racistI suppose I should pause here and set a few things straight. I hate politics. I am not what you’d called a “politico” in the slightest. I’m pretty admittedly an issues voter, and my feelings on a few key issues (gay marriage and abortion) mean I vote liberal. I don’t really even know enough about this point to say whether I prefer Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. But a few days ago I began to feel guilty about using my current status abroad as an excuse to not participate in the electoral process, so I did some reading. And I did some watching. And I only lasted about twenty minutes because I decided to begin my research with Trump. My dismay became so overwhelming I had to turn off my computer and watch a mindless 22-minute sitcom to feel better.

A couple of weeks ago at a pub quiz I go to frequently in Birmingham, England a group of students named their team “Donald Trump Fans,” which they certainly meant as a joke and I’m assuming they thought it was a really funny one. My team, the majority of us American, groaned audibly, and one of my friends said under her breath, “It isn’t funny anymore.” And it isn’t. We’ve seen this. “It isn’t funny anymore” was just one of the trending videos of people talking about how not funny this whole Donald Trump thing is getting. I’ve seen Hunger Games memes, I’ve seen Hitler comparisons, I’ve seen clips of Trump essentially condoning violence on protestors. To be honest, I am afraid.

My fear manifested itself in a joke I’ve been repeating quite frequently lately: that I’ll seek political asylum in the UK if Trump wins. I want to live here anyway, I want to stay, and this joke seemed culturally and contemporarily acceptable. I was forced to eat my hat when a gentle scroll through my Facebook timeline brought up an image of a tweet lashing back against Americans who say they’ll just move away from the US if Trump wins, comparing that to the plight of Syrian refugees who’ve been unable to find asylum at all. Google reported a 350% spike in searches of “How can I move to Canada” after Super Tuesday when Trump won multiple states. So many Americans are frightened. Then, again I was forced to rethink my fears when a genius tweet from @libyaliberty went viral:

In the last few weeks I ran for president of an organisation at my university. In thinking of a campaign theme, I had been considering for quite awhile that I’d go full-out American: I’d wear my American flag t-shirt and handkerchief on my head, I’d get American flag stickers to give out so people would remember me, I’d walk through campus singing “My Country, ‘Tis Of Thee.” I thought in an institution in England, I could use my “American-ness” to stand out from the crowd and be memorable. When it came time to begin campaigning I had completely abandoned this idea. I wanted to stay as far away from American associations as possible and I was dreading the debate when an audience member would ask how I felt about Donald Trump. But it didn’t happen. No one asked me anything about him throughout the entire process.

In fact, in recent weeks no one has asked me about Donald Trump at all. I spend my days and nights with Brits discussing anything but him, and then as soon as I meet an American compatriot, it seems all we can do is chat about our mutual disgust. I suppose in that sense he is unifying us in some way. This is all to say that my current political views are “#IDKnotTrumpTho” because all I know is that when the rest of world can only watch in almost slow-motion mute horror, the way most of us watch a car accident, as Americans move daily towards nominating a narcissistic, racist, despotic businessman for candidacy for “leader of the free world” then we have a problem on our hands. And the only way to solve that problem is to elect literally anyone else (except perhaps Ted Cruz, who may or may not be the Zodiac Killer).

For more information on the political and economic consequences of electing Trump, check out this article on The Street.

Check out this article to see why he’s kicking up such a furore with the 11 most offensive things the Republican candiate has said.