|"Whatever America hopes to bring to pass in the world|
must first come to pass in the heart of America."
-Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower
I rolled my eyes and told him I was sad about the election. As I walked away, I nearly cried.
I have been in Lesotho for almost two and half years, serving the people of Lesotho and the government of America.
In 2014, I was here for what the US State Department defined as a "coup-like event". The military assisted in removing the Prime Minister from power, however, they did not claim control over the country. We PCVs were forced to sit around in South Africa for three weeks before we could return to our homes.
In 2015, I got to watch this small, peaceful, resilient country hold special elections. After a week of Basotho listening to the radio nonstop, coalitions were formed and a new part gained the top office.
The political situation here is still not perfect-no political situation is. Newspapers print headlines daily calling attention to drama within and among the top political parties. Even today there are stories of a possible peaceful change of power in the parliament.
All of this politicking, however, lives only in the political sphere. At no time have I heard a single statement about a single politician's personal attributes, home life, or families. Every comment I have heard has been strictly about their work, action, beliefs, and role in politics.
America, we could learn something from Lesotho.
In 2016, the tables turned. Instead of me, the American, seeing Lesotho's electoral process, the people of Lesotho were watching America's political process...closely.
With increasing frequency from the primaries through the election, people would learn of my nationality and immediately ask me questions about our race. And their questions shook me to my proud-to-be-an-American core.
I found myself reassuring them that Americans do not hate Muslims....that we do not support kicking citizens our of country for having the wrong racial background...that we believe in equality regardless of race, gender, religion, or sexuality...that we believe in free speech not only free speech for powerful white men...that we believe everyone can achieve greatness if their are determined and ready to work...
As election day loomed, I was cautiously optimistic that America would support those statements and highlight gender equality in the results. Basotho men shared joy that we might elect our first female president so shortly after electing our first Black president. When I awoke on Wednesday morning, I immediately got online; it was 4:30am in Lesotho and polls on the West Coast were still open.
Over the next few hours, I used a week's worth of cellular data updating the results. Basotho friends sent me pictures of the news from their television screens and phones; asking me how this could happen in a place like America.
I believe in the American political system and the indirect democracy it allows. I would, especially right now, prefer direct democracy. Thank you to everyone who voted; regardless of who you chose. I am not trying to imply that anyone else's political leaning or belief is more or less valid than my own.
My shock, my pain, my anger, my fear...the shock, pain, anger, and fear of the Lesotho citizens I have heard from...is not about policy. It is not about Republican of Democratic ideology. In the global sense, this election was never about policy. It was a campaign trail of flash, volatile soundbites designed to and incredibly successful at drawing media attention.
And it worked.
People around the world heard the extremism.
In conversations with me, they struggled to reconcile the America they hold in such high regard-the USA they want to model their own country after-with the things being said in the campaign.
And when the results came in, and slightly more than half of America was crushed; so were they.
It is not a question of political ideology for my Basotho friends and neighbors. That was not what made the news. That is not what President-Elect Trump is known for. It is the loss of public decency. It is the realization that 48% of voting Americans elected someone who campaigned vocally against the equality we have been encouraging around the world for decades.
Like my friends, I feel betrayed. Not that people would vote for someone from a specific party. I have voted for losing candidates before in primaries and general elections. No, I feel betrayed because the America I am currently serving, the American that wants to promote peace, equality, and democracy around the world has just made an incredibly public statement to every person on Earth. They have shown that it is acceptable to say astonishingly terrible things about the vast majority of the global population and still become "leader of the free world." They have said this behavior is okay.
This is not okay. It is not acceptable in humanity, regardless of country, money, or power. This is never okay.
I am not running away from this. I am not giving up my American citizenship to stay in Africa forever. I am not moving to Canada when I finish my service. But I am heartbroken. I am heartbroken that nearly half of America has, by voting for this man, told more than half the world that their safety and their humanity does not matter.
And that is a terrible legacy.
Guess what does not matter...whatever good President-Elect Trump does in office will not matter to the majority of the world. It will not erase the terrible legacy of hatred that got him elected. America will survive. America could even thrive, depending on what your definition of that looks like. But the ends do not justify the means.
I am not only upset with out future president. I am upset with every single person that voted for him throughout the primary and the election-whether on policy or not-even the ones who I love dearly. It is not possible to accept the policy and the President without also accepting the horrible things that he said to garner support. Each vote cast for him is a sign that his words are permissible; that hurting people, shaming them, and threatening them is reasonable if it yields victory.
I have seen things online saying that the Democrats picked the wrong person if they wanted to win. I disagree. From my perspective halfway around the world, the Republicans picked the wrong person if they want America to win.
My United States passport is filled with great quotes from incredible leaders. Republican President Dwight Eisenhower said, "Whatever America hopes to bring to pass in the world must first come to pass in the hearts of America." This campaign and its end result has done just that. It has shown the world that what passes in the hearts of America, what makes America great again, is hatred...loud, cruel, illogical hatred.
"The cause of freedom is not the cause of a race, or a sect, a party, or a class-it is the cause of humankind, the very birthright of humanity."
-Anne Julia Cooper