Moving Forward

Today I’d like take a break from my travel blog and speak for a moment about the future of our country. This isn’t a pro-Democrat or an anti-Republican post. This is a post, from one human being to other human beings, about how to move forward – something I am personally struggling with. About what comes next. Because although I am scared and upset, the sun is still shining and it’s a new day. The world hasn’t ended, and we need to figure out a way to carry on. No matter who you voted for, hear me out. We need to turn to compassion and love instead of digging in and growing this enormous divide we have in our country.

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Today has been a very hard day for me, as it has for many people around the country and around the world. It hasn’t been hard for me because my candidate lost – that’s how democracy works. It’s been hard for me because almost fifty-nine million Americans voted for a candidate who has run on hate, misogyny, xenophobia, racism, and fear. And to me, the fact that fifty percent of the country is okay with this behavior, or that they can overlook it for the sake of policy and politics makes me personally very sad. I know most of them don’t personally believe it, but still, I feel heartbroken.

I know that the other side doesn’t see it that way. Right now, millions of people are celebrating. Some of those people are people I love very much. And I understand their perspective. To them, Trump stands for hope and change of the status quo. Yes, he makes inappropriate comments, but his off-the-cuff answers and lack of political correctness is refreshing for them. And though some of the stuff he says is worrisome, it can be brushed off as just talk.

I am not going to sit here and list out the reasons why, to me, this is complete and utter nonsense. That I am terrified. I am not going to lament injustice. And I am not going to throw a fit on social media demanding that all Trump supporters unfriend me, or curse third-party candidates. That doesn’t help. Demonizing Republicans won’t get you anywhere – in fact, it only makes the partisan split bigger. This election was close. And had it gone the other way, there would still be fifty percent of the population that feels exactly like I feel now. In fact, four years ago – they did. And even though many of us are scared of what is to come, fifty percent of the population is very excited.

The fact is that come January, Donald Trump will be sworn into the most powerful office of the entire world. And no matter how much you yell and scream, it’s going to happen. And no, moving to Canada isn’t the answer (This coming from me – someone notorious for seeking refuge from real world problems by running abroad).

America is a great country – one of the best in the world. And democracy is one of the things that makes us so great. The peaceful transition of power is one of our trademarks. And America isn’t only a President – America is 320 million individuals. We are a giant melting pot that values diversity and second chances. We are the land of the free and the home of the brave. And that doesn’t change overnight. We, the 320 million living, breathing people give Donald Trump his power. And we are still here. Four years is a long time. And yeah, if you’re like me then this is probably going to suck for a while. But that’s democracy. That’s how it works. America is resilient. We will get through this.

For today, I will allow myself to be heartbroken. While sitting in a Mexcian Starbucks, trying to comfort myself with a slice of chocolate cake, I can try and find a little solace in the fact that there are many millions of Americans who feel exactly as I do right now. I am very proud of my candidate and the campaign that she ran. I am proud to be with her. I am very proud of President Obama for taking the high road. And I am so proud of all of my friends who fought so hard this election season – you guys did great work.

If you voted for Trump, congratulations in your victory. And if you didn’t, I’m so sorry. But regardless, it’s time to come together, and move forward with compassion for your fellow man and love for the thing that makes this country so great: the 320 million people that call it home. And please, no more hate.

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It’s Not Funny Anymore…

When he first joined the race, I enjoyed laughing at the ridiculousness of Donald Trump as much as the next person. He called names, he lied, he picked fights and made absurd comments about building a wall between the USA and Mexico. His craziness was almost as entertaining as Sarah Palin saying she could see Russia from her house. Yeah, he is number one in the polls, I thought, but polls aren’t reliable, right? While the people putting him in first place appreciate his “honesty” and his ability to say whatever he wants, they know deep down that he can’t really be president, don’t they? I hope so.

Donald Trump’s rhetoric goes deeper than political parties. It goes deeper than trying to win the race to the White House. I don’t disagree with him because he is a Republican or because he is conservative. I don’t disagree with him because we have different beliefs about policy. I disagree with Donald Trump because he is perpetuating hate in the country which is supposed to be the leader of the free world.

America is nicknamed The Melting Pot. Virtually everyone’s family came as immigrant at some point in time – even Trump’s. There are millions of children and adults alike living in the US as legal citizens who hear all of this hateful rhetoric and a seed is planted in their heads – the thought that they don’t belong or that they are somehow lesser because of the color of their skin, their accent or their religion. If someone running for president of the United States says these things, they think, then everyone must believe it. This seed is a dangerous seed – it makes them feel like they don’t belong. If you’ve ever felt this feeling, you know how powerful it can be.

Even worse, Trump’s hate isn’t contained within our boarders, it has spread. Around the globe, people look to America as the Land of Opportunity. Billions of people dream of coming to the US and building a better life for themselves and their children. At least two or three days a week there is a front-page article in the Indian newspapers about the US presidential race. This is the impression that Indians (and countries everywhere) are getting about America and they think that this is how Americans feel as a whole. As an American abroad, sometimes people assume that this is how I feel. It makes my heart hurt.

One of the most dangerous things a person in power (or the media) can do is to instill fear without giving a solution – which is exactly what Trump is doing. I understand that there is fear of the unknown – this is perfectly natural. I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania where everyone went to either the Catholic church downtown or the Lutheran Church nearby. Everyone was white and no one was divorced (looking back, this is so weird). I never saw anyone wearing a hijab until I moved to France at the age of 25. Fear is a natural emotion, and it’s easy to succumb to it when everywhere you look, someone is telling you that Muslims are dangerous. And even easier when you don’t know any Muslims personally. I would guess that there is a high correlation between the percentage of people who fear Muslims and the percentage of people who don’t have any friends who are Muslim.

I challenge you to rise above what is easy. If you are apprehensive, educate yourself. Read about Islam and its beliefs (hint: Islam and ISIS are NOT the same thing.) Read the stories of others, like on the Humans of New York blog. The writer, Brandon Stanton, has been doing a lot of work telling the stories of Syrian refugees and posting them both on Instagram and on Facebook – they are both beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. Stand up to fear and make your own educated choices. Have conversations with your friends, your children and your colleagues. Fear is perpetuated by ignorance and you can help to stop the spread.

Above all, please remember that these are real human beings – people like you and me. So next time Donald Trump makes one of his comments, don’t laugh. Discrimination and hate aren’t funny and they’re certainly NOT how to make America great.

How to Fix the Problems of the World in One Easy Step

I propose we ship Donald Trump to Kiribati. Confused? Let me explain.

Kiribati is a small island nation in the South Pacific. It is northeast of Australia and directly south of Hawaii. It has islands lying in the Northern, Southern, Eastern AND Western Hemispheres, and it is the reason that the International Date Line has that funky shape on the southern part. Kiribati is only about 2km wide and an average of 6 feet above sea level…making it the first country which will completely be wiped off of the map as sea levels rise. Check out this awesome interview/TED Talk with the president of Kiribati as he speaks about the challenges his nation faces here. It’s really good – and their president is a pretty cool guy.

You may see where I’m going with this. Kiribati has recently bought some land in the Philippines in case they have to move their entire country because it’s under water. They are also working with Japan to build new, floating islands. That’s where my plan comes in: there is a high chance that even if we do get the entire world to drastically cut back their carbon emissions, Kiribati will still be wiped off of the map in the near future because of the damage we’ve already done. I suggest we:

  1. Ship Trump to Kiribati – Alone. We’ll even make him fly………COACH! (insert dramatic music here.) But won’t that punish the good people of Kiribati, you ask? What did they do to deserve this terrible punishment?
  2. Use Trump’s money to build new islands – We will build new islands and make them climate change-proof. They will use 100% renewable energy, they will rise with the level of the sea and they will be cyclone-proof as well. What the heck, we will throw in a free iPhone for everyone, too. Thanks, Donald! This means he will be stuck on the doomed island all alone.
  3. Make Kiribati Great Again – This will be the project slogan. It will also Make America Great Again since Trump will no longer be in it. Everyone will have new homes, new phones and they will be very happy on their state-of-the-art island. We all will live happily ever after.

Contingency plan: Just in case this plan somehow fails and, worst case scenario, Trump manages to find his way into the White House, I have a back-up plan. Actually, I have to give Megan Amram at The New Yorker credit for this one. She wrote a genius article entitled  Those Fleeing President Trump: Welcome to Canada! where she graciously welcomes all Americans who cannot live under the brutal thumb of The Donald. It’s a really great plan. I would definitely take her up on her offer if I didn’t already move to India. Her article is brilliantly written. I highly suggest it.

The final Republican debate of the year airs tonight – I can’t wait to see what new, racist idea Mr. Trump comes up with this time. Stay tuned. Until then – I will continue to dream of a world where we Make Kiribati Great Again.