I love living in a globalized society. It means economical Japanese auto engineering, Oscar winning Chilean animation, woolly Irish sweaters… so many other good things the connected world gives us are available right here in my little American liberal ghetto. It means I have friends from France and New Zealand and Canada who show up in my house where I make them waffles and we drink coffee on my couch while watching the sky change. It means it’s not hard to see the threads that tie us all together.
But this global view doesn’t necessarily eliminate all our cultural barriers, doesn’t automatically mean we can shrug off our differences with a gentle, “Meh, live and let live.” There are some things that are puzzling to our non-American friends. The Kardashians. Our intractable unwillingness to implement even the most common sense of gun control laws. The KFC bowl, an atrocity of caloric overkill that is not actually meant to feed more than one person. And the ascension of Donald Trump as the Republican party’s nominee for President of the United States of America. When confronted with something so inscrutable as the GOP front runner, it’s not surprising when our foreign friends and family turn to us, a single question on their lips:
“What the fuck is wrong with you people?”
It is tempting, in this case, to trot out any number of think pieces that delineate the decline of the Republican party — the party of Lincoln and Roosevelt, you may recall, though your foreign friends may not make the connection. It is tempting to present facile arguments about the desire of The American People to bring in “outsiders” and to back this with a logically fallacious comparison of the rise of Bernie Sanders (started his political career in 1971 and served 16 years in the Senate) with that of Donald Trump (started his political career in June, 2015). It’s tempting to fall into a “blame the media” argument, suggesting the entertainment like coverage given this most weighty of American undertakings somehow added an air of seriousness to the candidate whose platform “It’s going to be great again,” and whose debate tactics seem to have more in common with a schoolyard bully than a future leader of the free world.
Whatever with all that. There you are, traveling abroad, and your foreign in-laws’ neighbors invite you for coffee. You chit chat with them about the usual. “How are you enjoying your time here?” they ask, while sliding a neat little cup and saucer across the kitchen table to you. “Milk? Our son loved New York, he said the people were so friendly, he did not expect that, though it was very expensive.” And then, they sigh. “I’m sorry,” they say, “but Donald Trump?
What the fuck is wrong with you people?”
Here is your answer.
We are idiots. We are just that fucking stupid. And lazy, so lazy.
We’re unwilling to do even the most cursory research about our candidates. Hell, we can’t be bothered to vote, it’s too much work — a good year for voter turnout in the US is 60% — so research? No way, no how. We won’t do the most basic fact check on the nonsense spilling from the candidate’s twisted maw but we also won’t look into it even when someone else does it for us. Why sully our opinions with messy facts? He says what he means, we like that!
It’s easier for us to believe Donald Trump represents the American Dream and, by some transitory magic, to believe we, too, could achieve married to supermodel jetting about in a gold plated Learjet status, never mind that 99% of us could not actually turn to Daddy and get a neat million on which to found our empire — and that’s without accounting for family connections, the benefits of being raised wealthy, and textbook white priveledge. Buying this idea is much, much easier than grappling with income inequality because any day now, we’ll be rich too!
We’re in deep denial of our racist heritage — how else could we explain the rise of a guy who doesn’t immediately disavow an endorsement by the leader of the Klu Klux Klan? But Trump’s racist, misogynistic, xenophobic remarks, oh, they don’t apply to us, we’re not the minorities he’s looking for, he’s not talking about us, he’s talking about The Bad Guys, unless you’re Muslim, and then, all bets are off! Free trips to Somalia (or Mexico because… Mexicans!) for all the infidels, never mind if you were born in the US, off you go!
There’s no hope for us but we’ve been hearing so much about your education system, how anyone can afford a university education and can come out of school without being financially crippled by debt. We’re as dumb as a bag of hammers, but it could end with us. We know it’s a lot to ask, what with your own political woes, but we wonder if you wouldn’t be open to some kind of kindertransport. We’d start shipping our youngsters to you in their late teens. They could learn things like critical thinking and research and history — History! Go figure! — and then, come back and fix this mess we’ve made with their finely tuned brains.
Or, I dunno, maybe that’s too much to ask. This mire of hate and ignorance and fear we’ve built, our next leader wants to build a wall around it, so maybe we’ll just devolve into some kind of Lord of the Flies situation. We’ll get what we deserve because, after all, we have chosen to be complete fucking idiots. Vote Nihilist in 2016!
And that, that is how to talk to your foreign friends and family about Donald Trump.