How to watch an election abroad
I wrote this piece to share the opinion of an American abroad during an election, and to prepare anyone who might find themselves abroad during an election at some point. Also, be forewarned, I’m an ardent lefty.
The thing about the American election is that it’s not like tuning into a match between two clubs you care nothing about where you just want to see a good game. The policies of the United States, like it or not, affect everyone in the world – regardless if you’ve never set foot in the country. There’s no luxury of pleasant indifference, it’s important. Watching the election of your president from a foreign country is at once both intensely frustrating and oddly tranquil. But mostly intensely frustrating.
You are at once removed from the constant bickering that seems to go on through the months leading up to it. Absent from overhearing someone quoting Glen Beck or Rush Limbaugh and gritting your teeth not to launch into an blood curdling, time consuming debate that you’ll ultimately never get anything out of. However, at the same time that’s part of the culture – to incessantly argue with a complete stranger on the trajectory of the nation every three and a half years. But even here, I can’t escape that. I’ve found myself enjoying said tranquility and five minutes later I’m in a yelling match with a Republican I’ve just met on the street. It would seem that no matter how far away you are from Washington, it’s a part that never really leaves you, involuntarily summoned up like heart burn when you hear a pro-life supporter spewing trickle-down economic plans like they’re Ronald Regan.
However, those moments of tranquility are becoming rarer and rarer as we move towards the 6th of November. I’m sure you’ve noticed, perhaps you’ve even partaken – this is about that time when everyone on Facebook becomes a politician, everyone’s got an opinion worth hearing, and everyone is always right. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, it’s our generation’s method of communication and debate – it’s old-fashioned 21st century all-American. My point is, that those blood-curdling moments I was talking about are hitting us more and more, becoming ever so tempting to launch into a comment battle on that status of the person you only kinda-sorta know.
Aside from the debate forum on Facebook, you can always look forward to the random Tuesday when you and your roommates will stay awake until 4AM to watch Barack and Mitt duke it out, (or whoever it is in 2016). Furthermore, there is a constant fear that one will wake up and read the headlines of some travesty that has befallen your candidate. Such as good old Mitt saying that 47% of us Yanks don’t matter to him in a secret video tape. Or that the president is relying on Big Bird ads to stop the bleeding from a crappy debate performance.
All of this contributes for me at least one solemn feeling – helplessness. Aside from casting an absentee ballot (done) and throwing $10 into the Democratic coffers (done way too many times) there’s nothing to do but sit and wait. The image of squatting in a bomb shelter with earthquakes and explosions all around comes to mind. For those Americans here with me – hunker down, grit your teeth, and hope that when you come back up and it’s all over, the sky is still blue.
Kevin Mann can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.