I cast my absentee ballot weeks ago. Before I went to bed on election night, I read news of long lines at polling stations, scuffles between Trump supporters and Hillary supports, a secret Facebook fan page called Pantsuit Nation which I instantly “liked.” Election results started pouring in as I slept. Liam awoke at 4 AM screaming about a headache. I checked the news before I went to back to bed.
Hold the phone. These results can’t be right, I thought. And then I literally held my phone for an hour as I read commentaries, scrolled through posts on Facebook, and watched as Trump’s lead steadily grew. Eventually I grew weary and decided to sleep. Surely when I woke up Hillary would be back on top, just as the polls had predicted.
Except she wasn’t.
From afar I watched events unfold. I got Liam ready for school and Violet her breakfast, feeling too sick myself to eat much of anything. President Trump? Seriously, America?
Hoping for a miracle, I went about my morning and purposely ignored the news. But as I left the supermarket, I saw a message from my friend in England. Sheesh. Now I know how she felt during the whole Brexit debacle. And the two events seem to go hand-in-hand. An out-of-control refugee crisis has made way for a nationalist movement in the first world, one that I don’t understand or support.
By mid-morning it was decided. The unthinkable has come true. We have an inexperienced, sexist, bigoted, lying reality TV star in the White House. Bravo. Well done.
Look, I get it. People don’t like Hillary. There’s a complete disconnect between politicians in power and a part of the population that is fed up with Wall Street elitism. An outsider sounded appealing. But the Donald?! Again, seriously?!!
Before I got too worked up, I stopped to see my husband at the Embassy. The whole place was abuzz with election coverage. And of course it was the first thing out of my mouth when I saw him. “Can you believe this shit show?”
Now, one of the things I love (and love to hate) about my better half is his opposing political views. I’m a liberal through and through, but he’s a fiscal conservative. And as I sat in his office lamenting the end of civility and democracy as we know it, he calmly reassured me that everything would be ok. We didn’t elect a Supreme Dictator. We elected a President, one with limited power and a bureaucracy to work around. The party would keep him in line, and while I might not agree with his ideas, nothing too radical would get accomplished.
I’m not so sure. Time will tell, I guess.
So, what does this all mean for an expat? Well, I’ve got about 80 requests to live in our spare room, for starters. Election news reached all the FM stations here in Greece. It was all, “Greek, greek, greek, America, greek, greek, greek, Donald Trump.” The Greeks I talked to thought the whole thing was ludicrous. Do you hear that? The Greeks thing we’re crazy! Honestly, I’m thankful to be living abroad right now, but we eventually have to go back. What sort of country will we be coming back to?
Once the dust settles and the shock subsides, the thing I dread most is the implications of a Trump presidency for Americans abroad. Am I going to be constantly embarrassed by his lambasting of foreigners, his disregard for women, his insensitive and downright insulting comments? Will his coziness with Russia mean trouble for us? Will there be an even bigger target on our backs because of the things he says and the policies he enacts? Will his message of isolationism and hate fuel an international backlash against Americans? Or will his unpredictability spell disaster in some way I cannot even fathom?
Ok. Time for bed. As Scarlett O’Hara said, “Tomorrow is another day.” And as George Carlin aptly put, “In America, anyone can become president. That’s the problem.”