What’s Next for the Average American?

November 12, 2016

All the media is focusing on how Mr. Trump pulled it off, how the economy and environment is doomed, and how the country should react knowing the worst possible person was suddenly placed in command. I can’t speak to any of that with any level of authority, nor will I try. As much as we’d like to believe one person can make a difference – and he or she can – that’s not really what the coming weeks will be about for me.

I need to make a decision concerning my future as an American. It’s exciting, in a way; though I’ve always had the option of rejecting American citizenship by officially renouncing it or unofficially by staying abroad, never have I seriously considered it until Wednesday morning when we all heard the unthinkable. Let’s get one thing straight: I don’t know the future, and it’s entirely possible a Trump presidency could pass without resulting in unimaginable human rights’ violations or an economic meltdown.

However, there’s one thing America can never regain: our respect. The image we showcase to the rest of the world, telling everyone “Sure, we’ve got problems, but we’re a professional democracy.” Some of our politicians may be corrupt and misguided, but they’re not hellbent on instituting totalitarian rule. Say what you like about Republicans effectively obstructing Democrats every minute of every step and subverting democracy, but they still had to answer to constituents and keep themselves in check.

That’s no longer the case. Even if Donald Trump is found guilty of fraud and imprisoned before the inauguration, the damage is done. America has elected a clown. Worse than that: a self-proclaimed bigot, racist, sexist, and narcissist. There are only two possible ways I can see as of now to approach this problem.

Avoid the madness by staying abroad

I had already booked my flight back for the holidays in late December. Though I’m sure I also would have done this post-election, I did throw up a little thinking of returning to a country that had elected Trump, and thinking of holiday conversations with any relatives bigoted or ignorant (or both) enough to vote for him. However, President Obama will still be in charge until January 20th, giving me and all Americans a healthy buffer zone.

For some, this means using the time to get long-acting birth control. I could use this time to decide if there’s another country in which I could spend the rest of my days, returning only for family emergencies. This isn’t hyperbole, and hardly an overreaction: Trump is a living, breathing mockery of everything good in this world, and escaping any place for which he has the influence to shape social order in his image is a viable option.

What does this mean for me, a traveler? Continuing my quest to find the right balance working remotely. Returning to teach English in Asia. Becoming a permanent resident or citizen in a stable country, marching into a US embassy, and renouncing my citizenship. To some, these might sound like extreme, even ridiculous responses to an election result. However, we’re not dealing with a typical election. Plenty of German citizens, worried about the path their government was taking, fled the country after Hitler was appointed chancellor. Their fears were justified.

The bottom line is: this choice is the easy way out. One that’s best for my comfort and peace of mind, but certainly not all I’m capable of doing. If I were to go this route and watch the chaos befalling the US from afar, I might live to regret not trying to help. I’m already privileged to be a straight, white, cisgendered male who has the opportunity to travel. Not taking advantage of this privilege to make a difference in a country I do love is selfish.

Stay in the US, get involved, and change the system from within

The rocky path. Already many are showing their solidarity with victims of anti-Islamic violence and scorn by wearing safety pins. This is just one example of the way those who opposed the debacle that is Trump can help those who will be most affected by the election results. Many have taken to the streets in cities across the US. Though I support their intentions, we’ve seen other protests affecting little if any change. It’s a good start, but the only way to truly influence the country is to mobilize millions, including those who didn’t vote this election now horrified at the results.

If I was leaning towards the former choice the day after the election, now I’m favoring the latter. 90 million people didn’t vote on Tuesday, and another 60 million voted for Trump. There are 325 million people in the US. That means almost half the country is ignorant, racist, or apathetic.

Unfortunately, I fit into one of these categories. Because I didn’t register to vote absentee before I left for this trip, I was unable to cast my vote for Clinton. I can justify it however I like – I’m registered in Texas, which always goes red, so one vote doesn’t make a difference – but I’m responsible for Trump being elected just as much as a KKK member who actively voted for his racist policies. Apathy won this election, with the majority of eligible voters unable or choosing to stay away from the booths on November 8th. I feel disgusted to be a part of that group, but I have to accept responsibility for my inaction.

There’s plenty to do at home in the coming days, weeks, and months. Revising the electoral system. Protecting and reassuring those who are rightfully afraid: Muslim-Americans, members of the LGBTQ community, women, anyone who dares to look foreign, speak with an accent, or write something that doesn’t look like English. Holding Trump accountable for every action, every word.

In short, it’s going to be a hard, painful, neverending task, but it’s worth fighting for, isn’t it?

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