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This past week has been a whirlwind with the election, even more so being abroad and hearing about it.
On the afternoon of Wednesday, November 9th, I sat at my desk, grading papers. My hands were tensed up and I could barely concentrate and kept making mistakes with the grading.
I had forgotten to top up my phone that day so I didn’t have mobile data to furiously check Twitter every five minutes. All of the teachers were banned from talking about the election in the office. Everything felt like it was halted in a slow motion. I did my work and continued to go on with my day. The lingering feeling still stayed. In the back of my mind, I knew madness was going on back in the U.S. and on social media, Twitter especially.
Everyone was on the edge of their seats to see what the outcome would be.
Then I heard the news. From one of the Filipino teachers. Then from one of my Thai teachers.
Not too long afterward, I started getting messages from friends about it, with some saying how lucky I was to not be in the U.S. during this time. This has been said to me a lot lately in the past few months, many of them coming from Americans. The…I bet you’re glad you’re not in the U.S. right now! comments.
Thinking back to the long lead-up to this election, I remember the constant comments of people saying they would leave the country if Trump was elected president. Some were said in jest while many contained an actionable tone. Celebrities continuously made their announcements to the public of fleeing abroad. My brother talked about moving to Ireland (he has citizenship there), and several travelers I have encountered these past few months talked about how they loved not being in America.
The traveler, with all the melodramatic-ness in their voice, would proclaim how they disliked America and dreamed of permanently moving abroad.
Fellow English teachers who, with a few months or years of English teaching experience behind them, would state that they would never return to America.
In these talks, the same general negatives about America would be spouted: the rising health insurance costs, gun violence, low stagnant salaries, seedy politicians, and rising costs of living. These would be contrasted by talking about how delightful it was to be in a low cost of living place like Thailand and how it was “so cheap” to travel Southeast Asia.
These people kept the conversations firmly veered in talking about the negatives of America and never about why it really was “so cheap” to live in Southeast Asia. They were the types of travelers who, while certainly in the minority, were ones I actively tried to avoid.
I moved from America to Thailand in March 2016. These past eight months living abroad, keeping up with the election cycle, and seeing America from an outside view has been interesting to experience. I’ve gotten to see how people around the world keep up with American news.
And it’s been disappointing.
Fellow Americans, who, while denouncing their own country, would travel abroad and spout messages of taking charge of one’s life and embracing change. It didn’t add up.
They visited countries, talked of the rich history via long Instragram captions, and extolled the virtues of travel and being a worldly citizen…all while ignoring their homeland of America. It looked like all they wanted to do was watch America from the sidelines. Not participating, not being involved, and not staying up to date on news.
The biggest discouraging moment to witness is seeing someone give up when faced with an obstacle. That person is in office!? I’m leaving the country! The course of action is to leave rather than stay and work to improve. To participate in change.
Somewhere along the way, people have forgotten to remember the small everyday wins. They’ve forgotten to push forward and push past adversity. The bench is warm and nobody wants to get up and go out.
When they do get up, it’s not always in the best way. Making slapstick jokes on Twitter, liking political-themed memes on Instagram, arguing with someone on Facebook about it, and signing an online petition every now and then shouldn’t be the course of action.
It’s about stepping up, making efforts to educate yourself on the different perspectives, contributing to causes you care about, and understanding that progress isn’t always linear.
Don’t leave. Stay and continue making change, however small it may seem at first.