“This doesn’t happen here,” my co-worker said. “Maybe in Venezuela, but not here.”
She had been living in the United States for two years to receive her degree, and now we were both working a job in New York City. For me it was temporary, for her, this opportunity meant much more. It was Wednesday, November 9th. Donald Trump had just won the Presidential race, and we were sitting in our office chairs, dumbfounded.
“I’m used to politicians like this,” she continued. “I never thought that it could happen in the United States.”
I was shocked, as well. As a travel writer, I’ve been to my fair share of banana republic countries where their leaders were less than competent and more than corrupt. I had witnessed areas overrun by greed from presidents and dictators, but I never expected that I would have to deal with those same issues in my own country—one that had been lauded and idealized by the rest of the world for its political system.
American exceptionalism is something I’ve often experienced while on the road. I remember even studying abroad at nineteen and talking to my new friend Violet about American television shows and movies and how our way of life was so engrained even in her home in the Netherlands. She knew almost every United States president. I did not know a single one of hers. Living in Italy, I would often ask locals what their views were on the country’s politics. I was often met with a wave of their hands. Who cared when everything was terrible and nothing changed?
For the first time, we as United States citizens are experiencing a figure as our leader who is far from “presidential.” I am reminded of the areas I traveled to where politics was not a discussion because it didn’t really matter who was in power. It is not always easy to see change from the inside out, but from a globalized, outsider’s perspective, it is often much clearer.
I was proud to see the numbers that showed up for the women’s marches across the world two days ago. This is the first step—to show the world that this is unacceptable to have the most influential world power run by someone less-than-qualified for the position. This has never happened in our history before as a young nation, but it doesn’t have to be the norm like it has become in other areas of the world. We as humans can often take too long to learn from our mistakes—let’s not make this one of those times.
Keep wandering (and fighting),