The 2016 Election Abroad: Connected yet isolated (a collection of thoughts)

Shana Pike
November 14, 2016

A retrospective: A little over a month ago, I was buying some vegetables from a seller at the Dappermarkt, an open market down the street from my apartment. After asking for a few ½ kilos of this and a ½ kilo of that in my clearly not-Dutch accent, he asked where I was from. I told him I was an American, which influenced the typical, “what brings you here” type of questions. Right before our transaction was finished, he asked “What’re your thoughts about the election? I don’t know how he got this far!” to which I responded, “You and me both.”

He didn’t even humor the idea that I could potentially be a Trump supporter, without even so much as wondering if I agreed with his perspective on the election prior to opening the discussion. What American would be? (Or at least from his point of view: what American staying in the Netherlands would be a Trump supporter?) This experience was not few and far between. The 2016 election provided a talking point between me and the locals. These discussions were quite a shift away from the American cultural taboo of never discussing politics, money, or religion (but who honestly gives a shit about being polite when America is at risk of being run by a hateful orange bigot).

08 November 2016: I was sitting in a room with mostly American Democratic expats when, at around 3 am, silence, fear, and anxiety filled the room. Dutch folks sitting in the back began laughing hysterically as they realized what was happening. We biked home at 7am with heavy hearts and restless eyes. I came home and crawled into my bed while tears streamed down my cheeks.

09 November 2016: Being abroad for this election has been a terribly nauseating and isolating experience. I’ve mostly been sitting in my bed, balled up, and feeling disdain for my fellow Americans in Wisconsin, my conservative-leaning family, but mostly, fear for the future.

I want so much to say that I’m not scared or I’m not worried, but I would be lying. In my university town in the States, multiple KKK knights were spotted carrying TRUMP flags and garbed in white robes. Around Wisconsin, KKK members are leaving recruitment information on doors. This is a scary time. As a queer white woman, I’m worried for our rights, our safety, and our mental wellbeing. As an ally, I’m worried for those who have less privilege than I – and from overseas, I’m feeling helpless in my desire to support my friends who have been attacked by the hateful words from our President-elect and by the people he has inspired with those hateful words.

This is the America to which we are returning.

10 November 2016: I remember listening to a song from Anais Mitchell back in the summer with my partner called “Why do we build the wall?”. I looked at my partner and joked that it must be the ironic anthem of Trump supporters, but unfortunately it’s not so funny anymore.

“Why do we build the wall? We build the wall to keep us free, that’s why we build a wall – we build a wall to keep us free. How does the wall keep us free? The wall keeps out the enemy and the enemy is poverty and the wall keeps out the enemy and we build the wall to keep us free. That’s why we build a wall – we build a wall to keep us free.”

11 November 2016: This weekend I’m in London to visit my best friend from university who is currently studying abroad there. After feeling extremely isolated by the election results, processing the results with a like-minded friend was slightly healing. I’m slowly starting to move away from feeling fear. The fear I’ve been feeling is all-engulfing and immobilizing, but mobilization is exactly what needs to happen right now. This election not something anyone within any of the marginalized communities Trump explicitly attacked can blindly accept. We cannot allow the hatred and bigotry that has engulfed this election cannot permeate and grow.

Now is a time to stay strong, make art, be angry, organize, and encourage progressive change at whatever level we are able, in both the immediate and distant future.

12 November 2016: I don’t think Americans in the States realize how greatly this election has impacted and will continue to impact the rest of the world. All I can see is Trump’s mug in newspapers everywhere. I’m still struggling to talk about this election without wild emotions – who knows, maybe I always will – but everyday I’m one step further from the fear it evoked. Now I can only hope to take things day by day (and be grateful I’m spending Thanksgiving away from the mandatory political discussions with family).  

Moving Forward: The conceptualization of all Trump supporters as stupid and racist will not change anything. I’ve been trying to learn why immigration has been the key dividing issue within the Republican Party. I’m slowly trying to consider what caused prototypical Trump supporters to become so angry – so Islamophobic – so xenophobic – so scared of immigrants – so hateful of large communities that make America beautiful and diverse. (I highly recommend this podcasts as a start for those who wish to do the same: https://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/600/will-i-know-anyone-at-this-party)

Lastly, to those fellow Americans reading this and feeling some pain post-election: self-care is the most important immediate step. I’m sending my love and support to all of you. 

Shana Pike

<p>Hello folks! I&#39;m Shana, a small-town tree-hugger with a big appetite for experiences, culture, and knowledge. I&#39;m an undergrad student of Psychology and Gender Studies, yearning to understand my surroundings better each day. Welcome to my conglomeration of ideas and passions, all nourished by traveling, friends, spinach, and coffee.</p>

Home university:
Lawrence University
Major:
Gender Studies
Psychology
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