The election was a few weeks ago , yet I still struggle to find the right words to describe what happened and what this all means for us going forward (the first news coming out of the transition certainly don't bode well). For me personally, the outcome of the election has in many ways shaken my beliefs, my sense of security, and the perspectives that have carried me through this world.
I came to the US back in 2011 during Obama’s first presidency. 4 years prior to that, I remember sitting in my student apartment in Germany, writing emails to all my friends and family in the US, urging them to vote for “Yes, we can.” The reason why I cared so much about the 2008 election was not only because I was fully bought into the “Change we can believe in”-mantra, but also because I had become increasingly disillusioned during the 8 years under George W. Bush.
What Americans often don’t get is that the US election matter A LOT outside of the US. We follow US elections as if they were our own. We refer to the American president as the “Leader of the free world.” And we know what whoever reigns, also reigns over us. Their decisions will impact us.
8 years with George W. Bush had left scars on me. I could’t really make sense of the illegitimate invasion of Iraq and the many atrocities coming out of both Afghanistan and Iraq. When watching TV in my presence, my mom would zap channels every time the news was on, not wanting to expose me to even more bad news knowing it would hurt me emotionally. Yet at nights I was glued to my screen, reading the news and becoming increasingly upset with US politics. To me, Bush and his administration are war criminals and his reelection in 2004 remains something I will never really understand.
So when Obama came around, I became hopeful. His 2008 campaign instilled so much hope in me, and the morning after the election, knowing the US had elected its first black president, I truly felt I had woken up in a better world.
In the months and years that followed, my excitement for Obama grew stronger and stronger. When I had my farewell party in 2009 before I moved to Ireland, more than half of my farewell gifts were Obama-related. I had books, t-shirts, posters, even a little statue. And when I moved into my apartment in Dublin, I plastered the walls of my room with 50+ different art posters that had come out of the election. I was SUCH a fanboy.
So when I got the chance to come to the US in 2011, I was incredibly forward-looking and enthusiastic. I thought I was coming to a country that was a change agent, with a president that was an inspiration to the world. The fact that Obama recorded annual Noruz greetings for the Farsi speaking world made me develop a man-crush on him. While my support for Obama faded slightly over the years (after all, Syria happened under his watch), I still think of him as one of the reasons why I wanted to come to the US and I strongly believe we made incredible societal progress under his presidency.
So the recent election outcome feels like a massive blow to all that progress. It pains me that there was such a whitelash against him and that we are left with a president and an administration that looks far too similar to the way how Hitler and the Nazis came to power. Honestly, the similarities are shocking, and if you think it’s an exaggeration, please go and do your homework.
Now I am not going to post another 5 paragraphs to talk about how scared and worried I am about what is going to happen in the next four years – my concerns and fears have already been widely shared by my friends from all over the world. Instead, I would like to explore what silver lining – if any – there is to the situation we have ended up in. It is really not easy to flip on the optimism switch and walk around with a hopeful smile, knowing that the most powerful government in the world is now being staffed with climate change deniers, xenophobes and racists. That said, there is one thing I learned and one thing I hope to see happen.
What I learned: it started with a meme on Instagram, but there was some truth to it that is hard to deny. If Trump can become president, what in the world is there that I could not be? Seriously, if there is one thing I walk away with from this election, it’s that literally anything is possible and that I can be whatever I aspire to be. I wish it didn’t take a Trump to make that case in point, but if there is anything admirable about this past election, it’s that.
What I hope to see happen: I wondered what story we will be telling each other 50 years from now, looking back on 2016. Will be refer to this election as the beginning of the end? Or will we look back and tell the story of how much of a blow this election was, yet how much of a wake-up call it was at the same time. One that brought us altogether, one that deprived us from all the excuses we made to not take action. I wish we all look back on this election and say it rallied us, it united us, it made is 10x stronger and more determined. That we all stopped talking the talk, and that we started to walk the talk. Look, I have been saying for years that climate change is happening and that we need to do something about it. But have I ever done anything about it? I haven’t. But now, I truly have no more excuses left. Intention is meaningless, we all need to take action about the causes that matter to us.
I came to this country so enthusiastic and positive. America welcomed me with open arms and gave me a new home. But I am not gonna lie – the hope and enthusiasm that brought me here have turned into fear and worries. In many ways, I don’t recognize anymore the US that I came for in the first place. From the massive wave of police violence this summer to the very nasty and painful election. I have always considered the US my home, but I am not so sure anymore. And who knows, maybe my disappointment will carry another silver lining with it as I now seriously ponder the question of whether my days here are counted.