Places Where People Have Asked Me About Donald Trump

Michelle Berger
November 4, 2016
US news in German newspapers

When I left for Europe two months ago, I thought I was leaving behind the suffocating election rhetoric. Admittedly, I was relieved. How wrong I was. I am still inundated by American politics—daily. As an illustration of this point, take this selection of situations in which Europeans have eagerly launched into discussions of Donald Trump. In every single case, these were people confused and horrified by the rise of Donald Trump.

1.     My taxi driver a few weeks ago, who immigrated to Berlin from the Middle East many years ago

2.     A British guy who bought me a beer at a ruin bar in Budapest

3.     Two Israeli tourists who needed directions to the Jewish Museum

4.     My host mom (all the time)

5.     My German professors (all the time)

6.     A German man who owns a local business near my school

7.     Two German tourists on the U-Bahn who I started talking to because they were wearing American baseball caps

That’s only seven but I could go on indefinitely.

I can extrapolate a few themes from these interactions. First of all, on some level Donald Trump might aim to make America great but he is making it into a joke. People think we are so incredibly dumb for letting a man who seems to blunder from one proof of incompetence to the next get this far. But mostly, on a deeper level, I can tell that fear is gnawing at the populations of countries that are our strongest allies. People are terrified of what will happen to the world if Donald Trump becomes president.

During the most thought provoking conversation about Trump that I’ve had with a non-American, a friend of mine from New Zealand said the following (an approximate quote):

Since the US election matters for the whole world, I wish that we [meaning global citizens generally and New Zealanders specifically] could count for a tiny percentage of the vote.

Now, I know that the concept of foreign influence in national affairs threatens the US narrative of independence, liberty and patriotism. But her words continue to resonate with me.

The US, for better or worse, exercises an incredible amount of geo-political dominance. Radio stations all over the world play American pop songs. Newspapers all over the world—on the front page—cover the US election. 

An American passport represents the might of the US State Department, privileging American travelers with relatively unencumbered and harassment-free movement between national borders. American political decisions, foreign policy decisions, economic decisions, and militaristic decisions immediately and completely alter lives and communities throughout the entire world.

I am totally uncomfortable with this reality, even as I continue to benefit from it daily. I am totally uncomfortable with the fact that I have come to expect to find English speakers wherever I go. I am totally uncomfortable with the privileges I have, due solely to the fact that I was born in the United States.

“Uncomfortable,” though, is nowhere near a strong enough word to explain the way I feel when I am instantly connected with the name “Donald Trump.” And it certainly comes nowhere near describing how I would feel as a citizen of a country represented by him.

Because your nationality informs the way that others treat you. The undue perks that I’ve experienced thus fur prove that. And I do not wish to know how I would be treated if the American people—myself included—fail the entire world and jeopardize the security and well being of all global citizens by electing to office an individual completely unfit serve that office.

I have lately been reflecting on the concept of the nation-state. Frankly, I do not think I believe in it. I do not think that the benefits of nationalism outweigh the disadvantages. I hope that within my lifetime I will see national boundaries abolished. I hope that within my lifetime global citizenship will reign supreme. But until then, I am an American abroad. Come Wednesday morning, I wonder what that will mean.*



*General disclaimer: I have a huge amount of faith in Hillary Clinton. I think she will win. It has been an interesting exercize in reflection, though, to consider the "what ifs."

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Michelle Berger

<p>My name is Michelle, and I&#39;m a junior from The George Washington University, where I study Sociology with a minor in Classics.&nbsp;&nbsp;I&#39;m looking forward to gaining a global perspective during my semester in Berlin and sharing it with others!&nbsp;At school I&#39;m involved in student theater and community service, and I love to explore to DC with friends.</p>

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