The 2016 election has brought some interesting and unsuspecting changes to many of my relationships with family and friends around the world. Prior to the race, I truly enjoyed having messages and emails pop up from friends in Australia, coworkers in Italy and my in-laws in New Zealand. Now, I dread the impending conversation when I see a notification from Skype telling me my father in Germany wants to talk. No matter the reason for the chat, this will turn to politics. And not just any random political discussion. We are going to end up talking about the U.S race for the White House.
Let me share with you a typical email exchange. This is a close representation of one I could have with any given person, from any given country, on any given day:
Hi Melissa, how are you doing? How is the family? Is your country really going to make Donald Trump president?
Every. Single. Email. And then it is a litany of questions:
“How can you do this to the rest of the world?”, “Have Americans lost their minds?” and “Do you want to come live with us?”
My answers are usually:
“Not my fault,” “Yes, some have lost their minds,” and “When can I move in?”
It certainly has been fascinating watching the election process over the last year. [Breathe.] Perhaps “fascinating” is not the right word. [Don’t hyperventilate.] I am trying to be polite, but what I really mean is the election cycle has officially scared the hell out of me. [Deep breaths!] It has become an unpredictable sideshow in which I can no longer have a positive inner dialogue. I have to actually put those conversations into my article because my inner voice needs someone to talk to, as well!
Let me put it this way: If I need to talk about it, and the voice in my head needs to talk about, and my friends in other countries need to talk about, then EVERYONE needs to talk about it. So, let’s talk about it!
Here in the United States, we are experiencing a political cycle I am saddened by. The days of having healthy and spirited political debates are long gone. You can’t just talk about what is on your mind. People are yelling their thoughts AT one another but no one is actually listening. The world is watching all this unfold, and they are concerned with what they are seeing.
BBC reporter Katty Kay wrote about the world reaction to a possible Trump presidency. In her typical British wit she wrote: “Imagine if your much-respected but slightly annoying older sibling (the US) came home with a fantastically unsuitable date (Trump). Part of you is titillated but part of you is appalled, thinking, ‘Oh my God, this could go horribly wrong.’”
It is that last part most of the world is latching on to: It could go horribly wrong.
Earlier this spring, Politico offered unfettered insight into how the rest of the world viewed the US election through a collection of political cartoons from other countries. If you truly want to know how those outside of the United States perceive what is happening here, take a few minutes and scroll through the slideshow. It is eye opening when you view the election through the lens of a non American.
I can understand the global concern regarding our politics. We no longer live in a vacuum. What America does impacts political relationships with other countries, influences financial markets and ultimately has the potential to dictate global policies. So, yes, people want to know what is going on in the US of A!
It should also make you stop and think how people in other countries are interpreting what they are seeing. Imagine every shocking statement and action you have witnessed or heard from the campaign trail. Sitting in the comfort of our American living rooms, it is easy to brush off much of the rhetoric as typical campaign mudslinging. But what about the person sitting in a cafe in Barcelona or in a pub in London? What must they be thinking when they see perplexing images via the 24-hour news cycle? Are they shocked about the violent clashes between protesters and rally attendees? How are they interpreting the disparaging remarks the potential president is making about immigrants, women, minorities, people with disabilities, people of different faiths? Are they in disbelief over what is happening in America?
There are times our country does make the mistake of thinking we only need to care about ourselves. Here is your reality check: We are one country among many. We have to behave with the knowledge we are part of a much bigger picture. America’s actions and consequences do not stop at our borders. We actually have to play nicely with the other kids. Whoever wins this election needs to not only understand the dynamics of a global relationship, but they have to be willing to cultivate it and make it sustainable. The consequences of not playing nicely with our neighbors can be quite detrimental.