Thoughts on today’s election

Yes, this is a political post.

I know. I’m sorry. I, too, am sick of this election.

On top of that, I don’t like doing political posts because I have friends and family I respect across the political spectrum. (So this is your chance to stop reading if I am going to offend you.)

I don’t intend this post to overtly political, instead I want to reflect the views, the questions and the general impressions of people on this side of the pond when it comes to that thing that we really just want to end…this election.

Photo Credit: Mary Libertini

Photo Credit: Mary Libertini

When people find out that I’m American (I have to talk first because I naturally trick them with my Irish looks), they ask about the election. If it is culturally taboo to discuss politics, I wouldn’t know because apparently it goes out the window when speaking with Americans about the current election. My American accent is an invitation to ask who I’m voting for.

Some people start with a “so…what do you, uh, think about this, uh, election?” with a twinkle in their eye that says, “some circus, huh?”. Others look intently, to the point where I feel like I’m being scolded, and say, “you’re voting, right?” Many just go for it, “who are you voting for?”

In France, several students told me that they paid attention to American politics because it had a direct impact on their lives. I understood what they meant, but I didn’t feel it until coming here. People who talk to me in class, on the bus, in pubs, etc., seem personally invested in my vote. Time and time again, they tell me that what happens in the U.S. will affect their lives. To not vote, to tell them that I wasn’t going to vote in this election would have been personally insulting. (I have voted, by the way.) In many of these conversations, they seemed to suggest that I was voting for them, on behalf of the world. That my vote had implications far beyond what was going to happen in my hometown, my state and my country. For something that affects them so much, they have no say and I think that’s why the people I’ve casually talked to since I arrived seemed so invested in my vote.

As far as their opinion of us – they are laughing at us. Not with us, at us. And not like a jolly laugh, instead like a “this was hilarious at first, but now we’re just anxiously giggling hoping this is just a nightmare we’ll wake up from…anytime now…” laugh. Here are some examples:

Now, these signs may give the impression that people here are completely against Trump and absolutely for Hilary. That isn’t true. I’ve often heard people in the U.S. refer to this election as a competition between the “lesser of two evils”. I also hear that here. I don’t know if that is what people think I want to hear because that is how it is portrayed in the media or they truly feel that way, but it seems to be a little of both. It is assumed that most Americans aren’t excited about either candidate. Additionally, many of the people I’ve met here share the concerns about Hilary that I have heard voiced in the United States. While they aren’t sold on Hilary, the abhor Donald Trump. Most frequently I am asked that with everything he has said about immigrants, women (one man I talked to was especially disturbed with what Donald Trump has said about his own daughter), tax evasion, you name it, how he is even a viable candidate. They are disgusted, confused and scared about what it says about the current state of the United States that he would be popular enough to secure the nomination and what that means for the future, whether or not he is president.

Most people I’ve talked to don’t expect him to win. They will say that, but quickly qualify it with (or someone nearby listening in will add), “but we didn’t think Brexit would happen either.”

The moral of the story here is GO VOTE. Your vote matters. It matters back home and it matters to people all over the world. For better or worse, what we do has significant impacts beyond our borders. Please, make sure that the impact that we have is the one you want us to have, that the impression of America is the one that reflects you, your values and portrays us in the way we want to be portrayed in the world. Do your part to stop the Trumpocalypse…I mean, just go vote.

And…if you want to hear about the perception of the election in Denmark, go check out this post on my friend Maddie’s blog: Does everyone own a gun in America? It is a little more political than mine, so just keep that in mind if you found this post offensive.

 

You are very welcome

These words I heard over and over again when I arrived. “You are very welcome.” This is a common greeting here. Naturally I responded with “thank you” each time until orientation when we were told that we weren’t expected to say thank you every time and that it would actually come across as a little strange if we did.

So, I’m off to a good start. But nonetheless, I feel very welcome here in Ireland.

It wasn’t really so long ago that I was in France. Having spent extended time abroad a few times in my life, I was ready for the culture shock. Each time it is a little different and always catches me by surprise. Sometimes it comes as profound homesickness. Sometimes it is more of a euphoric excitement for literally everything (Pastries? YAY! 18th century plumbing? Cool!). This time it felt like a reminder. Like every time I’d do something, I’d say to myself, “oh yeah, I’m in Europe”. Like, “Why is this in kilometers? Oh yeah, I’m Europe.” Or, “They use celsius in Europe…so I’m not going to know what temperature it is this year.” Or, “Oh yeah, I’m in Europe so I have to weigh my own produce before I get to the check out.” And, “Grams. Right, Europe. Hmmm. No idea how much that is, but it looks approximately like what a pound of chicken looked like back in the states.” “15:30…forgot that people use the 24 hour clock in Europe.” Occasionally, there is a “…look right. I MEAN LEFT! LOOK LEFT!” as I remember that I am in Dublin and crossing the street is far more of a mental exercise than one would imagine. (Now, almost two months in I just look both ways several times – I’m sure I look like a crazy person and have absolutely given away that I’m not from here, but no near misses with cars.) And last but not least, “I can walk there. I can walk there? Oh yeah, I’m in Europe and I can walk EVERYWHERE!” (I don’t know what it is, but I find such simple joy in being able to walk to a destination. When I returned from France, I was irrationally upset that I couldn’t do that in the states.)

The transition has been great. People have been so friendly. When I have looked lost, people have stopped on the street and offered to help me find where I need to go. For everything from picking me up at the airport to connecting me people throughout Dublin, Rotary has been instrumental in making everything go so smoothly and has just taken such excellent care of me.

It’s going to be a good year.