American Abroad with Politics
For any American that has traveled abroad, especially in recent times, politics constantly make their way into the conversation. Every time I have traveled abroad over the last five years, American politics enter the conversation. For the first few times of traveling, I was young and gave my opinion, and if I didn’t know something, I was honest about it. As I’ve grown older, I have gained an interest in politics. I do not lead with that.
When I travel, I keep my mouth shut unless someone brings it up with me. I learned the hard way about bringing up my disliking for Donald Trump in a foreign place to have someone argue with me that Donald Trump is great. Usually what brought it up is the BBC notifications that pings my phone when wifi comes back.
Last summer when traveling, it was London when people in my hostile noticed I was American. Coming up to me, they asked about recent mass shootings there, and during 2016, there were many. At the time, it was the Pulse Nightclub Shooting, shootings of numerous unarmed black men, shooting of Dallas Police Officers– just to name a few. While it was hard to keep it all straight to who pays attention to politics and the news, it was still a lot to take in, especially because a lot of it comes from history. Thankfully that was only a few days.
This summer for traveling, many of it has been President Trump and his decisions. There is a great deal of joking surrounding the President. Quite a bit of this comes from people who misinterpret what he means to do. To me, traveling is a chance to get away from politics and whatever is going on at home. But, if it’s not people asking me about American politics, it is President Trump’s face pasted on the front of a newspaper.
While I study in Germany, I hear many comments about President Trump being similar to Adolf Hitler. Here in Germany, it is not just the newspapers, but it is the host family asking about it and other people in the classes. Many times, people from Australia, Mexico and China surround me. There isn’t a strain on our relationship because people don’t work like that. But, there is the question of what the hell is happening.
Any time an American travels now, there are questions because there is an insecurity there. President Obama built many relationships, and President Trump has broken many of them. It is more than promises, but it is treaties and backing out of agreements. And it can be dangerous.
When traveling, especially for long periods of time and perhaps in some places not as tourist friendly, it is best to blend in, which I tell myself. It means talking quietly and not wearing a backpack. Yet the American comes out, and I can only claim myself as Canadian for so much. (I’m from the north in the U.S., so I have a similar accent to Canadians.)
I’m not going to have pride for a country who wants to build a wall instead of bridges, or still wants to make women keep babies, or force people off of health care. If many of these people expected me to say more good things about President Trump, they quickly realized their mistake. But, with any negative commentary, an explanation should follow. That means educating yourself for these moments.
Questions come constantly, and they always will be when being abroad. But, any time you say something negative– or positive– the next thing must be an explanation. It must be why you feel that way, as well as where you come from in the United States. People abroad have an idea of who voted for who, but it gives a much better idea of where the ideas come from. Also, giving background information about the topic is useful because then an understanding will come about.
For all the people who have asked and told me about guns in the United States and the need for progressive gun control, but it is not that simple. I, too, agree there needs to be gun control in the United States. But, it is not as easy as changing it overnight. There is a long history.
It will be a challenge sometimes, but it is well worth it because no one would ask if they didn’t want to know. The United States of America is the superpower of the world, and President Trump is holding dearly onto the title. That means that anything the United States does will ultimately affect the rest of the world.