I’ve always been really proud to be an American, but after this last election and especially on my study abroad trip this semester, I’ve been a little embarrassed.
I have been to 10 different countries: New Zealand, Italy, Switzerland, France, The Netherlands, Germany, Britain, Scotland, Ireland and Canada. I am concluding my trip in Washington D.C.
I have mixed emotions about being here at this time in history. At the Lincoln Memorial, I could not make it through reading the Gettysburg Address without breaking down in tears and thinking about how President Trump’s racist views are the exact opposite of what Abraham Lincoln stood for.
When I was abroad, as soon as locals knew I was an American, they would ask me about Trump.
They would say they did not understand how such a man could be elected.
“What are you blokes over in America thinking about?” asked more than one cab driver.
First, people said they thought he was a joke and would make references to his crooked businesses with so many lawsuits against him and his companies.
Then they would say that his assaults on women should be found criminal like other men accused of this misbehavior such as Bill Cosby and more recently FOX News commentator and Trump’s close friend Bill O’Reilly.
I met hundreds of people on this trip from cab drivers to waiters to ministers and only two people said they liked Trump. Everyone else was afraid that he would get the world embroiled in war.
I stayed in hostels on this trip. Most of the time I roomed with six to eight other women, all from different countries. Always there was talk of how women’s rights will be affected, not just for the U.S. but around the world.
“I fear for how this will affect women in the military,” said one woman named Rachel, a Royal Navy doctor from the United Kingdom.
While visiting the World YWCA in Geneva, I heard employees profess deep fears over what will happen to women’s rights now that Trump is in office.
Juli Dugdale, a director at World YWCA, told me that the YWCA board voted to step out of the United Nations (U.N.) shortly after the summit in March because it felt its worst fears were being realized after it saw the far-right conservative faction touting pro-Trump signs.
The YWCA joined the U.N. over 50 years ago, and for it to step out speaks volumes. It thinks it will be in a better position to champion human rights autonomously rather than have its hands tied with the far-right attitude flooding into the U.N. from the U.S.
It was interesting to see the difference in the news in the various European countries. The news coming out of the U.S. seems fairly neutral, some even favorable toward Trump. This is a sharp contrast to what is published abroad where you hear stories of lies being uncovered and explicit behaviors being exposed.
In the U.K., a hard-hitting news piece that aired on BBC television on April 3 titled “Donald Trump: How Scared Should We Be?” concluded that we should all be very scared in regards to what the Trump administration means for world peace. It stressed that Trump’s willingness to shoot first and ask questions later puts the whole world at high risk for military conflagration.
According to The New York Times, only 46 percent of registered voters cast their votes in the last presidential election. It was the lowest turnout in history.
Since the election, I have been distressed that almost half of Americans supported a man like this. Now I realize when you factor in the low voter turnout, it is less than one quarter of the people in America that supported him.
My biggest hope is that this political quagmire we are now in will ignite a fire in the American people so they will not sit by and watch a small part of the population determine what direction our country will take in the future.
I hope that people will be proactive about contacting their senators and representatives about important issues like environmental protection, global warming and women’s rights. If we sit back and allow the current administration to dictate where our tax dollars are spent and what we are allowed to do in regard to reproductive rights, then we are giving up all that it means to be American.
We must exercise our right to vote, to have a voice, to be heard. I think sometimes people forget the power that the American public has when it stands together.
by Cynthia Lee Sinclair, Ka `Ohana Staff Reporter