Not the America I know
An open letter to my international friends and associates,
It is sometimes a surreal experience seeing the US from an outside perspective. Living now in Sweden, as an American citizen, I consume a huge amount of news from many resources. Many of them from the United States such as The New York Times, The Atlantic, PBS, NPR, Washington Post, Vox and others. I also consume a great deal of news from International resources – Associated Press, Reuters, RT, Al Jazeera, BBC, The Guardian, Göteborg Posten, SvD, and others.
Every morning I sit with the US and International news. And every morning for the last several months, I start my day in a state of complete disbelief, anxiety, and astonishment. I feel embarrassed, and not just a little freaked out, by the implications these headlines are having on our international friends. I am, of course, writing about the 2016 presidential election coverage and its Republican nominee.
Several weeks ago, I posted on my Facebook profile that I would no longer be sharing or commenting on this year’s election. I no longer wished be one of the individuals who provided the Republican nominee free press or commentary based on his outrageous behavior. That Facebook post was met with a good many comments expressing respect and support for my decision. However, this morning’s headline citing a thinly veiled physical threat against his Democratic opponent, calling to arms the “second amendment people” compels me to break my silence. I must write, and express to you, that the headlines coming from the US in the last several months do not reflect the America, or the American people, I know.
I understand that there are a great many folks in the US, who are angry. They are angry and scared and they are acting out. Living in the United States can be difficult in the best of times. We do not enjoy free education, free health care – or even affordable health care. There are those who fear the loss of their jobs, their homes, and their security.
However, violence and derision will not fix these issues nor does it provide freedom, peace, or security. In fact, as most will agree, it does quite the opposite.
My friends, my family members – my tribe – were taught respect. My tribe was encouraged to read, get educated, be outspoken and frank but not beyond the bounds of diplomacy and, yes, even political correctness. We were taught to think for ourselves, seek to understand both sides of a disagreement, help our neighbors, work hard, and to be generous and fair with our allies and international associates.
My Tribe – I believe I can speak for them – is saddened and horrified that there is a man running for the highest office who regularly and consistently extolls hatred, fear, encourages violence, lies, avoids personal responsibility, issues cruel and unnecessarily mean spirited barbs of criticism. This type of person is not only someone that my tribe would loath as a President, he is someone my tribe would avoid in any circumstance because he is simply not a decent human being.
Statements made by the Republican nominee over the last few months, and particularly during last night’s rally, is like watching a domestic abuser validate his actions. “It was just a JOKE” we often hear him say when he gets called out in the press. It is not lost on me, or on other journalists and writers, that indeed his “jokes” sound very similar to the abuser who insults you in a backhanded way and then claims that you are too sensitive. This, as it is in domestic abuse, is unacceptable.
So please my international friends, do not base your opinion of America on the outrageous and vitriolic statements made by this year’s Republican nominee. That man receives the headlines and the news attention he does because his comments are so over-the-top offensive that the press can’t not report the insanity that has become this year’s election.
My fear, whether or not this man becomes the next President, is that great damage has already been done to the image of the United States and her people. As for my part, however small this may be, I could not let those offenses go unchecked.