Apocalypse Now…

Okay, maybe “Apocalypse Now” is overstating the situation a bit, but not by much. And also – FUCK!

The thoughts have been swirling around my head at the speed of light since Tuesday night and breaking them down into cohesive, cogent sentences is proving illusive. But “FUCK!” pretty much covers it, I think.

I was going to do a long, detailed post about everything that is wrong about what happened on Tuesday, but I realize, with most of my readers at least, I am preaching to the choir and those facts don’t need to be reiterated here when others have written far more eloquently about them.

But I do still have a few things to say, however incoherently…

First off, I am so effing lucky to be an expat. Later today, I get to fly back to Ireland – a country that has its own problems, sure (repeal the 8th!) but at least they didn’t elect a Cheetoh as leader of the free world.

I also realize that I am witnessing these events from a place of privilege. I’m a straight, highly educated, white, upper middle class woman. Okay, that last one is a tick against me but still, if I am scared what must other, more marginalized folks, be feeling right now? I want to give them all a hug. I want to tell them that it’s all going to be okay – even if I have serious doubts about that.

To quote my BFF-in-my-own-mind Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love, cannot be killed or swept aside.” So…

Muslims – I love you.

LGBTQ people– I love you.

Immigrants – I love you.

Women – I love you.

People of color – I love you.

Hispanic people – I love you.

Poor people – I love you.

And I will do whatever I can to fight for you during what I fear is going to be a very dark time.

You (we) are the ones who can make America great again.

Not Donald Trump.

Trump Change…

I arrived in Dublin in November 2012 – the day before the Presidential election to be exact. And I learned very quickly that asking someone who they voted for isn’t considered rude, as it is in America – it’s just making conversation. Not surprisingly, it was definitely a popular topic of conversation as soon as anyone heard my accent. Taxi drivers, hotel clerks, waiters – everyone was very interested in who this American had voted for. And I was happy enough to engage in the conversation. Being a staunch Obama supporter and knowing that the Irish generally feel quite positive about him, I didn’t think I was in danger of getting into any fierce political arguments.

Now another American Presidential election is upon us. And, here in Ireland, both friends and strangers alike are keen to talk to me about it again. But this time, instead of inquiring about who I am supporting they pretty much just want to know – WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?! The election has gone in a direction that no one predicted. The entire world seems to have been blind-sided – and you all know why.

Trump.

In much the same way non-Americans ask me to explain “why” each time there is a mass shooting back home, they now ask me to explain “why” each time Trump opens his stupid mouth and says something that, up until a few months ago, would have been unbelievable. And my answer is the same. I have no effing clue. I can no more explain why a scary number of Americans love Trump than I can explain why those same Americans love guns.

It has been very interesting (in the same way a car wreck is interesting) to watch the rise of Trump from a distance. Even six short months ago, it all seemed like a joke. Sure, Trump was running but there’s no way people could be stupid enough to believe his racist, sexist, mono-syllabic bullshit. Now, he is all but guaranteed to be the Republican nominee. WTF? This is scary. And not just for America, but for the world.

Because, whether the rest of the world likes it or not, the person who is President of the United States is a matter of importance and significance to everyone, not just Americans.

And Trump as President would be a scary, scary proposition for the entire world. This is the man who promises to build a wall along the Mexican border to keep all the rapists out. This is the man who wants to ban Muslims from entering the United States. This is the man who advocates war crimes. And, oh yeah, he apparently has a big penis.

Please do not ask this expat to explain what is going on in her country because she can’t. I have no words of explanation for this. I cannot begin to understand how this has happened. Or what could happen.

I cannot even fathom an America where Donald Trump is President. I have no idea what that America would be, but it certainly would no longer be my America.

Crossing lines?

A couple of weeks ago, I was in Edinburgh for a wedding. More specifically, I arrived there on Friday, September 19th. One day after the Scottish vote for independence. Not surprisingly, this vote was huge news just about everywhere in Europe. And even those of us who do not live in Scotland and, therefore, didn’t have a vote had definite opinions about how we would vote if given the opportunity.

This got me thinking about the privacy of voting in general and how differently it is regarded here and in the States. My political leanings and affiliations are fairly obvious with just a cursory view of my Facebook page.  One can probably predict with a good degree of accuracy how I have voted in the past few Presidential elections and how I will vote in 2016.

But, what struck me when I moved to Europe was how okay it is for complete strangers to ask you how you are going to vote, or how you voted.  I had been living in Dublin for just days when the 2012 Presidential election took place and, once people heard my accent, their next question to me was who I voted for. Taxi drivers, hotel reception clerks, waiters – just about any stranger I met felt perfectly okay asking me a question that most Americans consider nearly as invasive as asking how much money one makes. I didn’t mind answering – mostly because I knew that most everyone I met probably would have voted the same as me, given the opportunity. I knew I wasn’t going to get into any lengthy, uncomfortable debates about American politics.  I’m not sure a Romney supporter would have faired the same way.

And it isn’t just Ireland that inquires so openly about one’s vote.  Back in November 2000, I was visiting Paris for Thanksgiving with my BFF. Though the election had been held more than two weeks ago, a winner still had not been declared and, of course, this was huge news in Paris (and, I imagine, just about everywhere). We were in line to climb the tower at Notre Dame where a slightly grizzled but still friendly Frenchman was taking tickets. He heard our accents and before letting us proceed asked in heavily accented English – “Bush or Gore?”. Our answer met with his approval and we were allowed into the tower.  But again, being in Europe, we knew that our choice was the popular choice over here – had we answered “Bush” we probably would have had to save the Notre Dame climb for another trip.

I don’t get offended when people over here ask me how I am going to vote, but I’m also not really itching to ask anybody about their vote when I am in the States. In America, who you vote for is a private thing unless you choose to share it. It’s a line you don’t cross unless invited to do so.  And here in Europe, at least in my experience, who you vote for is a perfectly acceptable form of small talk. I don’t think one way is better than the other. It’s just yet another way European and American sensibilities are different.

And it’s another difference that I find quite fascinating.

A Ballot of None…

Last week they held an election here in Ireland.  From what I could tell, it wasn’t a “big deal”, though I could very well be wrong about that.  My co-workers and Irish friends didn’t seem overly concerned about it and only a few of them voted.  There were banners for each side hung on lamp posts about town, but I didn’t notice any obnoxious, scare-tactic adverts on the telly or a huge amount of coverage in the news, and I certainly didn’t receive any robo-calls.

But even if this election was a big deal, even if I was bombarded with adverts and phone calls and debates and signs and whatnot, it wouldn’t have mattered.  I’m not a citizen of Ireland so I can’t vote here.  I can vote in the US, I can vote in Italy, but I have no say about what happens in the country in which I choose to live.  And I understand that – I don’t think that just because I live here I should automatically be given the right to vote here.  But still, it sometimes gives me pause.

When moving to Ireland progressed from possibility to reality, I really struggled with the fact that I was moving to a country where abortion is illegal, where a woman does not have the right to choose about what happens to her own body.  And, soon after I arrived in Dublin the tragic and preventable death of Savita Halappanavar brought the abortion issue in Ireland to the forefront.

But this is a fact of life as an ex-pat.  In choosing to move to Ireland, I chose to move someplace where I would not have a voice at the polls, where I cannot lodge my assent or dissent on issues – many of which are very important to me.  This is a sacrifice I have chosen to make and with which I must live.

However, that does not mean I must sit idly by. There is a push amongst the pro-choicers in Ireland for a referendum to at least amend the current abortion law.  This is something I would whole-heartedly support.  I will enthusiastically attend rallies, engage in thoughtful debate, and encourage people to get to the polls.  But that is all I can do.  A ballot will not be cast by me, cannot be cast by me.

But I will still do what I can to make my voice heard.