Friday, November 11, 2016

Ngoana oa Trump? (A child of Trump?)

"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
Hopping out of a car this morning, the driver turned to me and said, in Sesotho, "Uena, u ngoana oa Trump" or "You, you're a child of Trump."

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

1 comment:

Emilio Fernandez said...

Good morning, how are you?

My name is Emilio, I am a Spanish boy and I live in a town near to Madrid. I am a very interested person in knowing things so different as the culture, the way of life of the inhabitants of our planet, the fauna, the flora, and the landscapes of all the countries of the world etc. in summary, I am a person that enjoys traveling, learning and respecting people's diversity from all over the world.

I would love to travel and meet in person all the aspects above mentioned, but unfortunately as this is very expensive and my purchasing power is quite small, so I devised a way to travel with the imagination in every corner of our planet. A few years ago I started a collection of used stamps because through them, you can see pictures about fauna, flora, monuments, landscapes etc. from all the countries. As every day is more and more difficult to get stamps, some years ago I started a new collection in order to get traditional letters addressed to me in which my goal was to get at least 1 letter from each country in the world. This modest goal is feasible to reach in the most part of countries, but unfortunately, it is impossible to achieve in other various territories for several reasons, either because they are very small countries with very few population, either because they are countries at war, either because they are countries with extreme poverty or because for whatever reason the postal system is not functioning properly.

For all this, I would ask you one small favor:
Would you be so kind as to send me a letter by traditional mail from Lesootho? I understand perfectly that you think that your blog is not the appropriate place to ask this, and even, is very probably that you ignore my letter, but I would call your attention to the difficulty involved in getting a letter from that country, and also I don’t know anyone neither where to write in Lesotho in order to increase my collection. a letter for me is like a little souvenir, like if I have had visited that territory with my imagination and at same time, the arrival of the letters from a country is a sign of peace and normality and an original way to promote a country in the world. My postal address is the following one:

Emilio Fernandez Esteban
Calle Valencia, 39
28903 Getafe (Madrid)
Spain

If you wish, you can visit my blog www.cartasenmibuzon.blogspot.com where you can see the pictures of all the letters that I have received from whole World.

Finally, I would like to thank the attention given to this letter, and whether you can help me or not, I send my best wishes for peace, health and happiness for you, your family and all your dear beings.

Yours Sincerely

Emilio Fernandez