Warning signs from the UK and Turkey for Americans entering a Trump presidency: an election post-mortem essay from an overseas US citizen
I was going to treat this weekend like any other weekend. Instead, I felt compelled to share my thoughts on Donald Trump being elected as our 45th president as an American living overseas. Before today, I never wrote about politics. Trump getting elected president has little to do with my professional work as a career change consultant and keynote speaker. It has everything to do with my identity as an American living overseas, and I’m very concerned about the future of the United States now that Trump is taking over.
I’ve been stunned, perhaps naively, by the election of Trump. I didn’t think someone who said the polarizing things he said would ever win. Unlike 2008 when I watched MSNBC most of the time, a democratically leaning outlet, the past year, I’ve forced myself to watch Bill O’Reilly, Megyn Kelly, and even Sean Hannity on Fox News (owned by News Corps) to try and understand the other side of the story. I’m still disappointed in the outcome, even though we now know only a minority of the US electorate voted for Trump.
I’ve heard posting stuff about politics inevitably opens up a can of worms. In fact, after I posted on Facebook this past Wednesday expressing my disappointment in the election, it seemed to stir up conflict and pushback some old high school classmates I didn’t realize were Trump supporters (who knew!). I didn’t want things to get inflamed, so I ended up deleting my post, not wanting to get into it over social media with any Trump supporters on my feed.
I was going to let all this go, and just try to move on.
However, last night, I heard Richard Engel, a respected NBC foreign affairs correspondent describe how to spot the signs of an eroding democracy, and he said (I’m paraphrasing):
In Europe, they’re seeing the rise of populist parties and disintegration of EU values. They’re pointing to Trump as part of this same league of angry populists, warning Americans to be very careful with what’s coming. People in Europe who live in closer proximity to leaders trying to get around constitutional laws are raising this flag. They worry Americans perhaps don’t see the signs because they haven’t experienced this directly.
Since I’m an American who’s lived in pre & post Brexit UK, and I’m married to a non-US citizen who’s a dual citizen of Turkey and the UK, I decided to share my unique perspectives, not only as a way of processing my own thoughts, but also out of a sense of duty as an American. After all, I’ve benefited so much from everything the US has offered me throughout my life.
So here goes.
The focus on this post-election essay
While I wouldn’t consider myself a super politically engaged individual, it’s been hard not to notice and feel the impact of what’s been happening this year, especially the political parallels and unfortunate outcomes among the three countries I’m most connected to: the US, the UK, and Turkey. Each are, in their own unique ways, at different stages of moving toward being less inclusive and more isolated countries. In this essay, I’ll cover:
- How I’m connected to and feel invested in each of these three countries.
- Recent political trends in Turkey and the UK that may warn what’s to come in the US.
- For any Trump supporters reading this, some food for thought and a request.
1) My connections to the US, Turkey, and the UK.
My origins in the US
I’m a second-generation Taiwanese-American. That means three things: 1) I speak fluent English with no foreign accent, 2) my parents spoke English fluently with an Asian accent, and 3) I’m barely comprehensible in Mandarin Chinese with an obvious American accent. When I’m in Taiwan, people immediately know I’m American because of how I look, behave, and move. When I’m in the US, people immediately know I’m Asian because, well, I look Asian.
In part, my parents chose to leave their lives behind in Taiwan in the 1970s and bravely move to the US from Taiwan in their early 30s so my sister and I could grow up in the US. The United States offered a hope of a better life during a time when the concept of the American dream was very much alive, when mass immigration was becoming a defining chapter in America’s history.
My parents intentionally chose to primarily speak with my sister and me in English, which was harder for them since it was their second language, but it ensured we could truly own English as our first language and more easily assimilate into neighborhoods 100% White-Caucasian with the exception of our family. We grew up in the small towns of Fairmont, West Virginia; Hamilton, Ohio; and Springfield, Missouri, areas where the majority of voters (64%, 62%, and 61% respectively) just voted for Trump earlier this week.
I spent the first 32 years of my life in the United States, and really loved it. As part of a middle-class family in the Midwest, I was fortunate to be surrounded by people with solid, decent ethics and values. My parents worked very hard. I did too.
I never really experienced any blatant, sustained discrimination directed toward me specifically as one of the only minorities where I lived, although our family was on the receiving end of racist remarks here and there.
The US provided me with all the infrastructure and resources to attend great schools, succeed professional and personally, and live a very happy, comfortable life. I’ve always felt incredibly grateful, fortunate, and blessed to have had the opportunity to have my lottery birth ticket land me into such an amazing first-world country, due in part to my parents’ brave moves.
Because of this, I’ve always felt privileged, fortunate, and proud to be an American. However, I’ve felt less proud after Trump was elected our President earlier this week.
My connections to Turkey
During my MBA studies at the University of Michigan, my sister was working at the International Overseas College Guidance office at the Koç School in Istanbul, Turkey, where her job was to help high school students apply to and get admitted to colleges outside of Turkey, including and especially those in the US.
To be honest, I’d never really spent much time thinking about Turkey, the Mediterranean, or Europe up until that point. I knew nothing about Istanbul, so I thought I should take the opportunity to visit the largest city in the world that spans two continents (Europe and Asia) while my sister was there in 2006.
During my visit, I loved everything about Turkey. The incredible food, the rich history, the welcoming people, the fusion of cultures. What struck me the most was the seemingly harmonious coexistence between the secular and religious Muslim populations there. I’ll never forget being in central Istanbul on New Year’s Eve. I’d see see a group of women in headscarves heading toward a mosque one moment, and another group of women in high heels & skirts heading to a nightclub another. One moment, I felt like I was back in the 1600s at the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, and another, propelled into an ultra-modern metropolis walking through the bustling İstiklal Caddesi (Independence Avenue) in central Istanbul near Taksim Square, one of the many hearts of the city.
Although I really enjoyed my visit to Turkey, I never expected my life, from that point on, to be inextricably linked to that country.
My current residence in the UK
On my way back to the US from Turkey, I met my then girlfriend (now wife) in transit after being on the same flight from Istanbul to London. We met in passing, and the rest is history (a story for another time). Originally from Turkey and Turkish, she was on her way back to London, where she was working toward her Ph.D. Coincidentally, I had a short layover in London on my way back to Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Similar to how my father and my mother initially communicated via letters, the two of us I initially communicated via email. Similar to how my mother moved to the US to be with my father, I eventually moved to the UK to be with my future wife after working in San Francisco for three years post-MBA. We later engaged and got married in Istanbul in 2012, the city where we first crossed paths.
I immigrated to the UK and moved to London in 2010, long before the word “Brexit” entered into the public discourse. I was able to easily enter, live, and work in the UK on a Tier 1 General Migrant Visa. At the time, there was a Points-Based system in place that allowed highly skilled migrant workers into the UK, fairly unrestricted. I squeezed in right before the new coalition government that came into power that year discontinued the program a few months later after promising to reduce net annual immigration. Later, in 2014, then Home Secretary now Prime Minister Theresa May announced the Tier 1 visa extension program would be discontinued in 2015. I managed to secure my UK citizenship two weeks before the cut-off, barely enabling me to stay in the UK, where I’ve lived since.
My years in the UK have been the closest I’ve ever come to feeling like an immigrant and feeling a bit uneasy at the prospect of not necessarily being able to stay where I lived. Still, being an immigrant here has felt rather tame and no longer affects my day-to-day life in any material way, aside from Brits constantly asking me right now how I feel about Trump becoming my new US president.
I tell them I’m still processing it.
2) What’s happened since
I’ve understandably kept my eye on the political narratives of these three countries over the past few years. The Turkish elections, the Brexit referendum, and now, the US Presidential Election. I voted in two of these three elections, and had hoped for different outcomes in all. The events of both Turkey and the UK have been a way of helping me process what could potentially be coming our way as Americans. Here are my observations.
Turkey and the rise of authoritarianism
Mass protests & arrests
A few months after my wife and I got married in Istanbul, a wave of demonstrations and protests broke out against the increasingly authoritarian government of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, partially in response to the fear the government was encroaching on Turkey’s secularism and freedom of expression.
In 2013, those tensions culminated in the Gezi Park protests near Taksim Square, a location equivalent of any central area of any major city in the US. Although peaceful in nature (some were literally just standing, reading books), the demonstrators were cleared by an aggressive, brutal force of riot police, including the use of water cannons with corrosive chemical fluids, tear gas, and rubber bullets. Estimates ranged from hundreds to thousands of protesters being arrested. Many agree this crackdown on freedom of speech and peaceful protest was a pivotal moment that widened the chasm between supporters and those who opposed Erdogan.
You may not think a similar sequence of events could ever happen in the United States.
Already yesterday, nearly 200 protesters were arrested in third night of anti-Trump protests in downtown L.A. Right now, as I write this, thousands are protesting near Trump Towers. These protests are hardly in response to the fact he lost the popular vote, but most likely in response to the fact he’s made it this far saying and doing the things he has.
Turkish president Erdogan dismissed the Gezi Park protests as “just a few looters” and “vandals.” Does this sound familiar? Well, it might start to. Look at what Trump tweeted yesterday in response to the tens of thousands of people now protesting his election across major cities in the US.
It’s only been 4 days since the election. This is just starting. Michael Moore, one of the protesters at yesterday’s NYC Trump Tower protest said during his Nov 12 FB Live protest broadcast that these protests will only get bigger. I think he’s right. The potential for swelling protests and a police crackdown worries me. Moore has been right about a lot of things lately, including his eerily accurate prediction in July that Trump would easily win the election by winning certain states in the exact way he did long before many of us smug Hillary supporters could see it.
More authoritarian power
A series of elections resulted in more unrestricted power being granted to Erdogan, most recently in Nov 2015, when Erdogan began to amass even more power after his an outright majority of his AKP party in his parliament. Does that sound familiar? It should because the Republicans now control the presidency, the Senate, and the House in spite of the fact Democrats gained seats in both the House and the Senate.
More unchecked arrests
Most recently, after a failed, attempted coup which he may or may not have directly or indirectly incited this past summer, Erdogan took the liberties to declare a “state of emergency,” granting him broader executive powers and unilateral free reign to do as he pleased with groups and individuals who oppose him. This includes arresting thousands of protesters, lawyers, politicians, doctors, and even educators. In fact, Turkey is building 174 new prisons over the next 5 years to hold all its political prisoners. Let me repeat. 174. New. Prisons. He wants to LOCK-THEM-UP. Does this sound familiar? If not, here’s what Trump said at the 2nd presidential debate:
Inadequate separation of business & political interests
So, Erdogan has a son Bilal, who’s a shareholder of a marine transport company and oil trading business. The potential conflicts of interest are a bit beyond me, but I’ll let you read up on it yourself and come to your own judgements if you’re interested. The point is that the Turkish president’s family is involved in business dealings where there could be conflicts of interest.
Similarly, Trump and his children clearly have business dealings where there could be conflicts of interest. There seem to be solutions to this. Setting up a blind trust, something all past presidents have done can work. However, Trump’s concept of a blind trust is questionable at best if his children are still in charge. It gets worse. We just found out yesterday that he selected his children to be part of his TRANSITION TEAM.
Wait. What? Isn’t that the definition of a conflict of interest?
Donald Trump's questionable 'blind trust' setup just got more questionable
Donald Trump's decision to leave his children in control of his fortune during his presidency was already an unusual…
Silencing the free press (our 4th estate)
Erdogan has shut down over 130 media organizations since June. And just two weeks ago, he has ordered the imprisonment of the editor of the left-leaning Cumhuriyet along with a dozen of their leading journalists as a way of muffling the liberal media that stirs up trouble and incites protests. Does the phrase “lies spread by the media, poisoning the minds of the electorate” ring a bell? Does the idea of deligitimizing press that doesn’t work in your favor sound familiar? It should. Donald Trump has attacked the media repeatedly.
Just yesterday, Trump blamed the media for these protests we’re now seeing:
He has stated the election is “rigged” by the media:
He’s also said he would punish the press when it doesn’t work in his favor. In response to media outlets that write critical articles about him, he has threatened to “open up our libel laws so when they write purposely [negative] articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.” The good news is, there aren’t federal libel laws as far as I’m aware, but you get his sentiment.
Nov 14 update- since I originally wrote this article, Trump has now gone on a Tweet storm against the New York Times, the 2nd largest (only behind the Wall Street Journal) and one of the most reputable and esteemed national newspapers in the US. If this pattern of him questioning the legitimacy of any free press that dares critique him doesn’t stop, or if he tries to control the messenging of the free press, that’s called State controlled media. Yeah, like what’s starting to happen in Turkey right now, and what places like North Korea and China already have.
Except when Trump DID say the idea of nuclear proliferation is fine . . .
Nov 23 update- Can Dündar, former editor-in-chief of Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet spoke with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, discussing how the free press in the US may now face similar issues to those Turkish journalists have faced given the similarity between Erdogan’s and Trump’s derogatory rhetoric toward the media.
Nov 23 update- Don’t just take my word for it. 10 days after I wrote this article, Christiane Amanpour outlined the dangers facing the US press in this CNN opinion piece, using Erdoğan and Turkey as an example of what could come to the US.
Journalism faces an 'existential crisis' in Trump era
Ladies and gentlemen, I added the bits from candidate Trump as a reminder of the peril we face. I actually hoped that…
My current hiatus from Turkey
I used to make regular visits to Turkey to connect with my in-laws there. I have not been back to Turkey for over a year now. I cancelled my last two scheduled trips earlier this year because in the days before each of those trips, there was either a bombing or warning from the US State Department advising Americans to avoid traveling there, the most recent one coming two weeks ago.
When my wife and I got married there in 2012, safety was never a concern for my wife, me, or any of our friends. We happily roamed those same areas where the Gezi Park protests happened without ever thinking about anything bad happening.
I honestly never imagined this same spot in Taksim Square, where all our wedding guests gathered four years ago, would be the site of a brutal police crackdown, excessively tear-gassing peaceful protesters and pounding them with powerful chemical water cannons. I never imagined that same bustling area where we celebrated would eventually become an entire district local Turks no longer frequent. I never imagined when we all flew in and out of the Ataturk Istanbul airport that summer that there would be a mass shooting and suicide attack there in June 2016. None of this ever crossed my mind as being within the realm of possibility.
It’s incredible what a difference four years can make.
I’m not trying to argue that the US is anything like Turkey. What I am trying to say is that some hard-to-ignore parallels exist between the behaviours of Erdogan, who has become increasingly authoritarian, and the campaign rhetoric of Trump, even before he’s gotten into office. But don’t take my word for it. Read archaeologist & historian Tobias Stone’s thorough analysis of why presuming Trump is the beginning of a very bad period for the world, even nuclear war, is not that far-fetched.
Michael Moore also hit the nail on the head here in one of his first post-election tweets:
Every change starts somewhere. And just like climate change (which is definitely real if you believe in science), it often begins with subtle, incremental shifts, not obvious, tectonic events. I don’t know how close the US is to a tipping point, but it would be naïve to think there isn’t a chance of the US shifting, even a little, from being an inclusive democracy to a more autocratic, fascist dictatorship.
UK post-Brexit and the rise of racism
During my most recent trip back to the US a few weeks ago, almost everyone asked me about what life’s been like post-Brexit. Only a couple people asked me about the recent opposition purge in post-coup Turkey. At least anecdotally, more people in the United States seemed to be aware of what’s happened in the UK rather than what’s been transpiring in Turkey, although the situation Turkey seems gravely more serious.
The Brexit referendum only happened a few months ago, and it’s still thrashing about a bit with the timing and viability of an exit up in the air. No one really knows how things will ultimately turn out.
Racially-motivated crimes against foreigners have risen since Brexit
One thing that has changed is that racially motivated hate based crimes have gone up since the Brexit vote. This hasn’t yet affected me personally, but it’s been in the news. Hate-based crimes soared 41% higher vs. the prior year’s period in the weeks following the referendum vote, with nearly 300 incidents the day after the vote.
At first, people thought this “celebratory-racism” was an anomaly, a way of people venting any pent-up racial frustrations they had been yearning to unleash. However, there is been a sustained increase in hate-based, racially motivated crimes even though we’re now months post-Brexit referendum, and we haven’t even exited the EU yet.
For example, a Polish man was beaten to death in Essex (near where my brother-in-law lives) because he was not speaking English. Just north of London, a Muslim, pregnant woman with a headscarf was verbally abused and kicked repeatedly in the stomach by her attacker, causing her to lose her baby.
Muslim woman begged hate attacker for mercy before he kicked her in stomach killing baby
'PLEASE NO...I'M PREGNANT' The yob also attacked the victim's husband when he tried to intervene A PREGNANT Muslim…
These stories sadden and sicken me.
I’m not arguing the US will necessarily experience the same trends in hate crimes that UK has. However, I am saying the US is already seeing an anecdotal uptick in hate crimes, at least those captured on social media. And if you don’t think that a vote for Donald Trump has incited racist behaviour, you need to wake up. Open your eyes. And just look around.
Beginning the day after Trump was elected. Shaun King, a writer for the NY Daily News, began documenting the hundreds — yes, hundreds — of racist crimes Americans have been committing in the 4 short days since Trump got elected. Targets include Asian Americans being attacked, African Americans being threatened, Hispanics being taunted, various minorities at school being bullied with deportation videos, and sick graffiti like this:
Or this story that just broke of a hijab-wearing student at THE University of Michigan, where I myself went to school, threatened with being set on fire if she didn’t take off her headscarf:
Hijab-wearing U-M student threatened with being set on fire
Ann Arbor police are looking for a man who demanded a University of Michigan student remove her hijab, a headscarf…
Oh yeah, and then there’s this: N.C. KKK chapter plans Trump victory parade.
Ku Klux Klan group plans North Carolina rally to celebrate Donald Trump's election victory
The Ku Klux Klan has announced a "victory" parade in North Carolina following Donald Trump's election as president. The…
Yes. The celebratory racism inspired by much of what Trump was spewing during the campaign has already begun.
It’s happening. Already.
This CANNOT be acceptable post-election behavior.
It doesn’t entirely surprise me that there’s been such a surge in racist behavior after Donald Trump got elected. Trump has unleashed some seriously racist and bullying verbal attacks on many vulnerable groups. Mix bullying with racism, and here’s what you get.
Also, the US has a cultural disadvantage here compared to the UK. Broadly speaking, the culture in the UK tends to be more restrained, reserved, and polite. Whereas in the US, people tend to be more extroverted, outspoken, and, well, loud, both figuratively and literally. If you think I’m generalizing, you’re right. I am. But if you’ve ever lived in both places, you’ll likely agree with me.
If you think the hate crimes have been bad in the UK, they will certainly be much more blatantly malicious in the US.
What’s saddens me the most is seeing the behavior trickle into the youth population. I can’t imagine what it must be like right now as a parent in the US sending your minority child into school. I NEVER experienced anything like this growing up in cities that were more than 95% Caucasian, or being one of six minorities in my otherwise all-Caucasian class of 434 students at my high school in Springfield, Missouri. That was 20 years ago. And here we are in 2016, with things now worse if the last four days are any indication of what’s to come.
Unfortunately, we’ve turned a bad corner in the US. It may get much worse before it gets much better.
Nov 18 update: In the week after Election Day, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported 701 incidents of hateful harassment and intimidation, the number typically reported in a 5–6 month period. So yes, my fears were correct about this being MUCH worse in the US than in the UK.
Nov 28 update: Mosques are now being threatened, with references to both Trump and Hitler. President-elect Trump has yet to speak out directly against these heinous acts, aside from saying “stop it.”
Mosques get threatening letters: Trump will 'do to you Muslims what Hitler did to the Jews'
Letters threatening that President-elect Donald Trump will do to Muslims what Adolf Hitler "did to the Jews" were sent…
3) A request for Trump supporters
First, I’ll admit my own inadvertent “racial profiling”
Okay, so I’ll admit, I did use the words “racist and uneducated” in that Facebook post I eventually deleted. It wasn’t fair to imply this of all Trump supportes, and these Facebook rebuttals from my former high school classmates in Springfield, Missouri were 100% understandable and deserved:
As my first Trump-supporting friend back in Springfield, Missouri aptly stated (someone I respect), if I called all Trump supporters uneducated racists, I’d be guilty of engaging in the same divisive behavior I’m criticizing in Trump. Point taken. I’ll try not to do it again. I was inappropriately venting. I shouldn’t have said it. I was having a bad day. After a night of no sleep. I’m sorry.
I do not believe all supporters of Trump are bad people. I personally know individuals I respect who supported him. I’m speculating their primary reason for supporting him was not driven by their desire for more racism, misogyny, xenophobia, or fascism in America or the world.
However, when you see raw videos like this from Trump rallies, I hope you’ll at least acknowledge how people could reasonably think some Trump supporters are uneducated racists.
Voices From Donald Trump’s Rallies, Uncensored
“Build a wall — kill them all.” New York Times reporters have spent over a year covering Donald J. Trump ‘s rallies…
The fact is, Donald Trump has said things throughout his campaign that are objectively racist, xenophobic, autocratic, misogynistic, and isolationist. As I mentioned at the start of this rather long essay, I do not believe ALL supporters of Trump are also racist, misogynistic, xenophobes. Painting any group that supports any candidate in one way is simply unfair.
I’m willing to accept the premise that some Trump supporters voted for him not because he makes racist statements, but in spite of the fact he makes racist statements. That some Trump supporters vote for him not because he says demeaning things to women, but in spite of the fact he says demeaning things to women. That some Trump supporters voted for him not because he wants to create a mandatory Muslim database similar to what was done in Nazi Germany with Jews, but in spite of his fascist words.
If you voted for Trump, you may not consider yourself a racist yourself. Or a misogynist. Or a xenophobe. Or a white supremacist. Or someone who believes it’s okay to treat women like objects. Fair enough. You may not be. As part of the 53% of voters who did NOT vote for Trump (74% of eligible voter population if you include those who abstained), it’s definitely not fair for me to sit here and broadly label the ALL Trump supporters as embracing these things.
However . . .
If you voted for Trump, at best, you have played a small part in legitimizing, accepting, tacitly condoning, and at the very least normalizing the racist and sexist attitudes, statements, and actions in which Trump himself has engaged.
You simply cannot get around this. You cannot have it both ways. Sorry to break it to you. If you voted for Trump, you fall somewhere along the spectrum of embracing, accepting, ignoring, or being indifferent to his racist, misogynistic, fascist statements.
Therefore, whether you admit it or not, you are now a member of the minority 26% of eligible voters who have tacitly or explictly condoned racism, fascism, and misogyny, which the last time I checked, all fly in the face of American, democratic values.
I wish I had better news for you.
Similarly, I have to own the fact that voting for Hillary means also accepting and condoning her full range of behaviors, which some people categorize as illegal or corrupt. The difference is that the FBI cleared her of her wrong doing. Twice. More importantly, she has come out and said her actions were a mistake, wrong, and not to be done again in the future. And by doing so, making it clear anyone in her position should not engage in similar behaviour.
If Trump were to have ever delivered the headline that hate crimes are wrong or sexism is wrong or bullying people with disabilities is wrong, it might be different, but he has not. And as of this writing, he STILL has not said a word about why racially motivated crimes are wrong even in the wake of all these racist hate crimes the past 4 days since he was elected. Even if he did, he has a major credibility gap here because he’s proudly basked in and bragged about these behaviors himself for the past year and half. It’s like telling your children bullying is bad, even though you do it and promote it in front of them all the time.
Why being a racist vs. non-racist Trump supporter misses the point
Being elected President is binary. Someone wins. Someone loses. Trump is going to be our president. Hillary Clinton is not. And while Trump — like everyone for that matter — may be a nuanced man, and his supporters may be nuanced people, his key messages are not.
As someone who spent 10 years of my career working in brand management and marketing, where part of my job was to create key takeaways and messaging, where my clients now hire me to help them brand themselves a certain way, I can tell you that most people think and absorb information in headlines, not paragraphs (I’m aware this article isn’t exactly a quick read). Communication is what the listener hears, not necessarily what the speaker says. And people take actions based on main bullets they remember, not the detailed sub-bullets embedded throughout.
Putting aside my own preferences for Hillary, from a pure marketing standpoint, when I saw both their final ads in the days leading up to the election, it worried me and began to make me question whether Hillary really had this thing locked up. I thought Trump’s voiced ad was 10X more effective than Hillary’s feel-good ad because of his crystal clear messaging. He spoke in headlines and key messages. She didn’t speak, and instead used Katy Perry’s song “Roar.” Trump’s ad surely was much more persuasive to anyone who may have been on the fence.
As marketers, we’re obsessed with key takeaways. Why? Because detailed information informs beliefs. But key takeaways inspire action. And here’s a sampling of Trump’s memorable campaign key takeaways. This exercise is scarily easy — the exact intonation of his voice when he said each is seared in my head:
- Make America Great Again
- Crooked Hillary
- Mexicans are rapists & drug dealers (and some are good people)
- Build a wall
- Grab ’em by the pussy
- Deport undocumented workers
- Stop sending jobs to China
- Climate change is a hoax
- Bring back manufacturing
- I alone can fix it
- Liberal, biased media
- Law and order
- Repeal Obamacare
- We’re going to be respected
- Shut down Muslims entering US
- Hillary’s 33,000 emails
- Protect 2nd Amendment people
- Lock her up (try chanting “Stronger Together”)
- We’re gonna win. Bigly. (pretty sure he’s saying “Big League,” right?)
- Obama is a disaster
- Hillary is a disaster
- Election is rigged
- System is rigged
- The Establishment isn’t working for you
- Visual of him mocking a disabled reporter
(By the way, try doing this headline exercise with Hillary. I immediately got stuck after “Stronger together” and “I’m with her.”)
So when someone who says these things gets elevated into the highest office in the land, it at the VERY least signals that saying these things, believing these things, and acting on those beliefs is not only okay, but an enabler for you to get ahead and succeed, just like Trump has in this election.
And that’s one of the many problems here.
Some Trump supporters may believe some or all of these statements are acceptable and excusable. Some may embrace them. Others may not. But it doesn’t matter. If you voted for him, you, at best, have tacitly condoned these statements. And tacitly condoning the bolded ones above are flat out dangerous because it leads to normalizing bullying, discrimination, sexual assault against women, muzzling the media, and being reckless with the environment. Unfortunately, it’s part of the package.
So if you voted for Trump, whether you admit it to yourself or not, you have either:
- A) intentionally played a role in legitimizing and normalizing discrimination and hate toward minorities, women, foreigners, handicapped individuals, LGBTs, and journalists (all groups Trump has attacked) OR
- B) unintentionally done so
If you’re in Group A, I probably can’t reason with you. We’re not just on different pages. We’re on different planets. If we do cross paths on the street, I will do my very best to be civil and respectful toward you because everyone’s entitled to their opinion.
However, if you’re in Group B, the good news is, you can own the fact you don’t agree with Trump’s beliefs! You can make a decision right now about whether you want to be characterized and grouped with the Trump supporters who are perceived as being racist/ sexist/ misogynistic/ isolationist. I know there are good people out there who did support Trump. I know a few of them personally (see FB chain above).
However, please do one small favor for all of us Americans. Stand up against the increasing number of people now engaged in blatantly discriminatory or racist behavior when you see one of your neighbors getting hurt or singled out because of what they look like, where they’re from, whom they worship, or whom they love.
I’m no expert on how to deal with bigoted haters, so here are some other pieces of advice in response to the increase in hate crimes that have been happening here in the UK since the Brexit vote.
If you’re part of the minority of voters who voted for Trump, you have every right to reap the benefits from any good he may bring your way.
You ALSO now have a particular responsibility to help the majority of Americans who did not vote for him deal with the bad that may come our way, some of which, has already begun.
I will of course aspire to do the same and practice what I preach if I see unacceptable behaviour when I’m in the US. However, it’s one thing if someone from the opposing team tells you to back off from a fight. It’s another when someone from your own team pulls you back. Trump and non-Trump supporters BOTH need to stand up for our fellow Americans. I’m just hoping the non-racist/non-misogynistic/non-sexist Trump supporters ensure they jump in when the situation demands it.
If you cannot bring yourself to stand up for the rights of these vulnerable groups, you may want to reflect on what that says about you, what you really believe, and where you want the country to head from here.
Also, consider this. If you’re not a minority, would you want to trade places with a minority right now? Jane Elliott, the psychologist most famous for her brown-eyed/blue-eyed experiment, astutely posed this question to an audience, and no one wanted to.
In closing, I hope the US can rebound from this
I hope further fallout from Brexit will be limited. After all, I’ll be living in the UK for the foreseeable future. I hope the situation in Turkey doesn’t become even less stable. After all, many people I care about live there, including most of my in-laws. And I hope a Trump presidency isn’t as calamitous as it seems. As Hillary said so graciously said during her concession speech, we all owe Trump our open minds and a chance to lead.
No one knows if he will govern the way he’s campaigned, namely because he has still revealed frighteningly little about if and how he plans to actually execute the broad ideas he’s proposed to-date.
Update Nov 14- He’s already shifted positions on at least one of his campaign promises of fully repealing Obama Care in yesterday’s 60 Minutes interview just days after getting elected. No one knows if the American institutions are strong enough to mitigate any drastic, undemocratic moves he makes. No one knows if the Republican Congress will keep at least some semblence of checks & balances.
If Trump does manage to do execute even a fraction of the extreme ideas he’s proposed, we as Americans should be nothing short of absolutely petrified.
A few months ago, I went back to the US for my 20-year high school reunion in Springfield, Missouri. I was surprised how little had changed. I was so happy to be back there to reconnect with people I hadn’t seen for years or decades. I have many fond memories from my childhood there. Although I grew up in a city that was less than 2% Asian at that time (and still is), I never experienced anything close to the hate crimes committed the past few days. I believed and still believe the people in that town are some of the most decent, friendly, and kind-hearted individuals I’ve met.
I still believe in the decency of most Americans. The American democracy has weathered many storms over its rich history, and I want to believe our institutions are strong enough to keep us safe and free.
In fact, one day, I hope to bring my wife to see this Midwest city where I grew up, where my parents spent most of their years after coming to the US. To be honest, if I do go back again soon, I won’t be extremely worried about being bullied or treated any differently by anyone there even though Trump constantly railed against Chinese. Nor will I be overly worried about the safety of my wife who’s originally from a predominantly Muslim country even though Trump has flagged people from Muslim countries as being dangerous.
Nor will I be excessively worried about deportation forces, the press no longer being free, mass imprisonment of undocumented workers, rampant bullying in schools, the KKK becoming more active, LGBT rights being rescinded, hijabs no longer being safe to wear in public, Trump’s opponents being locked up without due process, protesters being punished or incarcerated en masse, women being increasingly objectified and assaulted, American being increasingly isolated from the world, our NATO partnerships falling apart, other dictators conspiring with Trump, executive orders being made in the interest of his businesses rather than the interests of Americans, the acceleration of our planet’s destruction, or inciting a nuclear war.
After all, this is America, right?
America. The same confident country that once welcomed immigrants like my own parents who recreated their lives in the US to make my own trajectory there possible. The same prosperous nation that provided the solid foundation for my own life.
I want to believe none of these negative scenarios is possible.
But all of this is now much more probable.
Our country could change forever. Donald Trump does seem dangerous. And every single one of these scenarios now seem just a bit more likely than they did before he was elected president. I hope we can each play our small part in educating ourselves and others about what’s acceptable within our American democracy. And more importantly, what is not.
What else can you do right now? If you can afford it, support causes, groups, and organizations now under threat.
Running list of relevant developments since I originally wrote this:
- Nov 15 update: Donald Trump has chosen Myron Ebell, someone who does not believe in climate change, to lead the EPA Transition. And in an interview with Truthout, Noam Chomsky warns the US Republican party has now become “the most dangerous organization in world history.”
- Nov 15 update: 1,500+ Fulbright Scholars have signed an open letter on Trump election calling out similar issues with his views & rhetoric:
We have, for the last eighteen months, watched the electoral process unfold in the United States as the president-elect openly engaged in demagoguery against a number of vulnerable populations, courted hate groups, threatened the press, and promised vindictive actions against his opponents. This is not populism; it is recklessness.” -current & past Fulbright Scholars
- Nov 16 update: Trevor Noah explains the similarities between Trump and the increasingly repressive regime of South African president Jacob Zuma. Trevor’s a comedian, but this is definitely not funny.
Joseph Liu is an American living in the United Kingdom and a dual UK/US citizen. He wrote this essay to process, inform, and hopefully inspire. He still loves America and looks forward to his next visit home.