Since I awoke Wednesday morning and saw the text message from my best friend saying "The whole thing is sad", I have run through a full range of emotions, some of which include:
Rage... that my fellow countrymen could elect a man who so clearly degrades, objectifies, and mocks a good deal of our population, including myself and many of my closest friends.
Fear... that the hands of our nuclear codes are now in the hands of a man who clearly cannot control his emotions, make rational decisions, and has exhibited no capability to put the interest and safety of others above his personal feelings and gain. That his actions could lead us to WWIII or persecution of people.
Shame... as I go to work and move around in a community of people who clearly cannot understand how such a man can be elected, and I am a member of the community that allowed this to happen.
However, I also have some understanding for how this did happen. And it shouldn't be a surprise to Europeans, as the same problems are occuring across Europe, on larger (Brexit) or smaller scales (Sweden with the rise of SD, France with the rise of Le Pen, etc).
I, and many of my friends, colleagues, and family, are on the successful side of globalization. We travel out of love and desire for new experiences, have learned to see different people and experiences as a source of strength in a community, not a threat, and have always realized that under the different skin color, language differences, and relationship differences, in the end we are all people who love, fear, grieve, want to survive, and even thrive.
We have had higher education, which helps, but as seen in the election of Trump, isn't enough. More than higher education in itself, is a demand to understand history, to see what has happened before, how it happened, and how we can avoid repeating it.
We are thriving in a global world, valued because we have skills that are in demand, we enjoy working in teams involving other people, are adaptable to move into new companies, and even new cities and countries.
But in all our higher education, world view understanding, desire to make the world a better place, and foresight to fear the direction the United States was headed under Trump, we overlooked the plight and emotion of many of our fellow countrymen, who are not thriving in globalizations.
And whether we talk about Bengtfors, Liverpool, or Kokomo, cities and villages around the world are losing high paying manufacturing jobs, only to be replaced by low-paying service jobs. The middle class is disappearing, the future is not looking bright, and they wanted a change.
Hillary did not offer a change, nor did she really even try to meet and understand the plight of people on a personal level. Trump offered change, and met with people and created a lot of noise that they wanted to hear. And that change was more important than his character or capability to lead the most powerful nation in the world.
And he won...
Since Wednesday morning, I have thought a lot about what I wanted to write. I have started many drafts, and finally last night came upon how I will react to this election, and what I want to do about it.
When I was seventeen, I was accepted to the Indiana University Honors Program in Foreign Language (IUHPFL), a program where around 30 high school students from the state of Indiana travel to a city in another country for seven weeks of intensive study-abroad. Language is an important element of the program, requiring full immersion in the language during the entire seven weeks. At the time I applied, the language skill and fluency was what I was after. I didn't anticipate the most important lessons, the lessons that would help form me and my values, and impact me for the rest of my life.
As part of the experience, we had a several day trip to the beaches of Normandy, the town of St Mère Église (where the first Allied paratroopers landed), and the World War II museum at Caen. The experience itself, hearing speeches from the townpeople, and standing on the beaches imagining the Allied troops invading and fighting the Nazis was profound.
However, I and another girl, had an additional gift. We were hosted in the homes of members of the community, and our hosts were an elderly couple and their grandchildren. As we sat down to dinner with them, our host welcomed us with a toast and a heartfelt gratitude to Americans. He, and his wife, had both been interned in Nazi concentration camps, and had been liberated by American troops. He chose this opportunity each year to host a few students in our group so that he could give thanks. He showed us the number tattoed on his arms, and took us to the beach and spoke to us, with tears in his eyes, ofhis gratitude to the Americans and Allies for saving him.
In the end, he not only gave thanks, but gave me a lesson for life. In the near term, it gave me tremendous pride to be an American and gave me a passion for reading and understanding World War II. My initial research and passions were about the American role, but grew to understand why the war started and why it happened. I learned that not all Germans were bad, and especially as a parent, grew to understand the dilemma many were in. Even if one knows something is wrong, how far can one go to stop it, when your foremost job is to protect your child.
Overall the program gave me an ability to see my country from the outside, both the good and the bad, and to understand that there are many ways to see situations based on where you are in them. Too many Americans have not had the experience to see themselves and their country from the outside, from their specific position in life, from the perspective in their little town.
As I have considered my response and action to this election, I know that I want to take action to increase understanding and make the best out of this. With that, I have decided to have a goal to fund a student from Indiana, a state that Trump swept and from where Pence was governor. A state that is in the Rust Belt, has lost in many ways to globalization, and needs to see a stronger future.
For all of you who are disappointed, scared, sad, angry, and unsure what to do, please consider sharing in this action. For each person who can learn, for each person that can see a new perspective, we have a chance for a brighter future. From my time, the program has now expanded to send students beyond France, Germany, and Spain, also to Mexico, Chile, China, Japan, and Austria.
To read more about the program: http://www.indiana.edu/~iuhpfl/
In order to donate, please do so directly to the program:
2) Click on the Give Now button on the bottom of the page (appears as a link, not a button on iPads)
3) Select "Honors Program in Foreign Language"
4) Either make it anonymous, or choose to put in the field "Gift in honor of" the text "For peace and understanding"
5) Enter information and credit card for payment. Luckily international addresses and payments are supported, so any of my friends in other countries who disagree with the direction the United States is headed can have a chance to help change that direction.