Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Dealing with life as an expat who hates Trumpism

As you can probably tell by now, I am devastated beyond words that my (in name only, in all other ways former) country chose to elect hate. Even those who didn't vote for hate per se felt it was an acceptable part of the package, which is itself an act of hate - no matter the reason - that I do not forgive.

It's not so much that I particularly loved Clinton, though I was excited to vote for the first female president with a serious chance, and I do not think she is the bloodthirsty vampire-she-beast that many have come to believe she is. And it's not that I am so devastated after every Republican win - I'm not (okay, I'll admit that when I moved to Taiwan I trolled my coworkers saying it was because GW Bush was re-elected, and I'm not sorry for this real life troll job, but that's what it was - a few lulz, nothing more. I left for other reasons entirely).

Now, though, I have come to feel more than ever that Taiwan is my home. I hadn't planned on returning to the US in any case, but it was always on the table, potentially. Maybe we'd have elderly relatives to care for, or maybe one of us would get a blockbuster job offer. New York seemed like a fine city if we could afford it: I could continue to treat mass transit as a core belief, and not have to buy a car. It might have happened.

That is all gone. I do not think I can return for more than a visit. Ever. We may not stay in Taiwan, but I truly cannot imagine moving back to the US. Not because of Trump itself, but because the people who voted for it (remember, a thing who openly bragged of sexual assault and ran a campaign with very strong, obvious messages of racism, who has already said it plans to take away my medical rights as a woman) will still be around, and I do not imagine that I can peaceably share a country with them. Forget anger - though there is that - I just don't think my psyche could take it.

And yet, I do feel a sense of guilt about this. A lot of people say they're going to move to Canada if so-and-so wins, and with Trump, that rhetoric was stronger than ever. I am in the fortunate position of being able to do so fairly easily. I married into the nationality because I'm smart like that.

But, then, another call came: don't move to Canada. The US needs you. It's a privilege to be able to leave, when those who will really suffer under Trump's regime perhaps can't leave, but will definitely lose allies and accomplices if you go. You need to be there to protest, to resist, to get involved, to fight back. To register yourself as a Muslim if it starts putting that Nazi-like shitshow into action. To walk women into abortion clinics and put yourself physically between a harasser and a minority being harassed. To provide help and possibly housing for refugees (potentially domestic ones, and I am not joking). To join local groups and donate to national ones. To get your ground game going. We need people to fight, not to run. To occupy.

I get it - and the argument is persuasive. I love a good fight, and that is something I do have the constitution for (certainly I don't care much what people think of me, and am quite happy to say what I think and stand up for what is right under my own name).

In fact, if I lived in America, I think I would stay for this reason. To make people who want to implement a racist, sexist agenda and set back our collective cultural clock to a racist, sexist time as miserable as fucking possible. Like, if you thought I was a bitch before, you ain't seen nothin' until I've got something real and tangible and scary to fight for.

Hell, I could probably even find common cause with decent, fundamentally morally good conservatives who  also hate Trump and everything it stands for. The basically okay folks who believe in personal freedoms (as long as they leave mine and my loved ones' alone in terms of who they marry or what medical choices they make - I'll even leave their guns alone in good faith), the folks with a conscience even if we disagree on some things, who have a similar idea of where we should go as a country but maybe have different ideas on how to get there (some of which are terrible, but that can be worked around civilly. Probably some of mine are too).

The thing is, though, that I don't live in America. I haven't for a decade. Does the call to stay and resist apply if you weren't there to begin with?

After careful thought, I have decided that it doesn't. There are good reasons why I consider Taiwan my home, and most of them actually don't have to do with my anger at the country I was born in. Those are not invalidated. Taiwan is still my home, and would be even if I came from the Land of Peace and Bubbles (a.k.a. Denmark, apparently?).

So, it is acceptable to decide to continue to live abroad guilt-free. If Clinton had been elected I would not have returned permanently, so this doesn't change that - all it changes is that now, even in the future, I won't. I do not imagine Trump will be president for more than four years, but even if it is, as someone who was already gone, I do think it is morally permissible to stay gone.

That said, I am still in the resistance. I do not consider myself absolved of my duty to fight as a decent human being who was born in the USA. Not because we "lost" - we've lost before. Who cares. It happens. But because this is actually terrifying in a way it never before was in my lifetime, in a way that could truly hurt many people I care about who happen to be LGBT, or Muslim, or Hispanic, or women who may need abortions, or whomever our brand new white supremacist in the White House may seem fit to target. This is some real honest-to-goodness Greatest Generation shit right here and we need to resist. We need to put ourselves at risk and maybe be uncomfortable. We need to start thinking about who stands to suffer most and figure out how we can either stop that from happening, or be of help when it does.

This leaves the question of how. From Taiwan there is not that much I can do. But there are a few things.

First and foremost, donate donate donate donate (I can't find a donation page for that last one, but if you can, you should try to help them stay afloat - here's why). Money is one thing that crosses borders easily. This is the first thing I plan to do once my next transfer to my US bank goes through.

Secondly, if at any point this whole super-duper-Nazi "Muslim registry" actually goes into effect, if you are abroad but able to do so online, register as a Muslim yourself to confuse the thugs. (You can sign the petition if you want, but that's not really the point - the point is to keep your ears open.) Or, do it on your next visit home, if it becomes a real thing. It can't target Muslims if it doesn't know which registrees are actually Muslim, and if you are targeted yourself, consider it as taking the place of a Muslim who now has the extra time to get away.

Thirdly, you are still a citizen. You can still vote. Call your representatives. Or write to them, though this is less effective. Sign petitions, join mailing lists, be a voice.

And finally, find out where the major protests are and plan your visits home around them. Make a sign, go march, occupy, do what you can. Confront your family members if you are at all able to do so. I am skeptical of this working much: while there may be some truth to the power of engagement, my experience has been that when someone calls someone else out as racist, it's not because the person they're calling out is talking about their problems and the listener is downplaying them or trying to tell them they're actually privileged. Replying to a story of economic woe or an opioid addiction crisis with "well actually you should be grateful because at least you're white, and if you don't see that you're racist" is cartoonishly insensitive - while I'm sure people like this exist, I have never met one.

No, it's because they are actually saying or doing something racist, and not calling that out normalizes it in an unacceptable way. I do not think Trump voters voted for racism because they're sick of being called racists. I think many of them voted Trump because they actually are racists, and whether or not you called them that, it wouldn't have changed anything (nor would being nice to them - no social movement ever got anywhere by asking nicely).

Side note: while I am sympathetic to someone's economic struggle, I don't excuse that as a reason to have ignored Trump's bigotry. Voting for it isn't going to bring those jobs back. The economy has been fundamentally restructured, and all these trade deals you don't like (guess what, I don't always like them either) are a by-product of that, not the cause of it.  Only finding a place for yourself in the new economy - and maybe accepting some government help or getting more education (which you deserve to be able to afford) to do so - is going to change the situation.

Though I do not believe this is the main reason most people voted Trump, I am genuinely sorry - no sarcasm - that your Rust Belt job is gone, but Trump isn't going to be able to bring it back. Even if it could, re-investing in fossil fuels will render our skies gray again. That's not a solution. In any case, I have struggled too, and I did not grow up in a wealthy family. I never took that as an excuse to ignore racist rhetoric in a candidate because they said what I wanted to hear about jobs. It was always my job to educate myself and find a place in the economy. So I take this "reason" for voting Trump as a reason to improve education, so people might better understand when a candidate's promises are not possible.

Perhaps I am a flawed person, but I do not think it is ethically right not to call out overt racism, nor do I think I have the constitution not to do so. But, I suppose you can try. Hail Mary, right?

Maybe don't bother with a safety pin on those visits - I guess you can if you want, I can't be bothered with that argument, let's not fight please - but do keep your eyes open for instances of harassment and physically intervene. You are only there temporarily but the person being harassed has to live with the threat of it every day.

Two more things - stop believing and posting bullshit from fake news sites (feel free to keep posting on Facebook: it's not that productive but it is therapeutic and helps people hone their real-life arguments, so there is some benefit). Get your real argument game on, get facts, listen to real media with real fact-checkers and trained journalists who are at least trying to be accurate. Subscribe to an online news source and actually pay for it so we can keep real media alive.

And - remember, Taiwan needs you too. The appointment of a few Taiwan-friendly folks to the cabinet is a good sign, but Trump's utter disregard for any sort of international diplomacy that doesn't result in a shower of shiny gold coins or telling brown people to get lost is still worrying. So be present and engaged and ready to fight for Taiwan if the chance presents itself.

There will be expats here, and some will support Trump. Engage with them if you feel you can, or avoid them (I do not necessarily think it is bad for someone who voted for a racist agenda, even if that's not why they voted for it, to feel a bit ostracized). Watch out for increased harassment and other hate speech among your fellow expats, and step in as necessary.

No matter what, if you plan to stay abroad - even if you plan to never return and quite possibly someday renounce citizenship as I do - don't think this absolves you from the fight.

Trumpio* delenda est.

*I have no idea what declension to use because I forgot all my Latin. So I made this one up. 


Meg Quinn said...

Thank you, Jenna. I share your feelings and opinions on so much of this. I am particularly twisted up about the Muslim registration because if I (we, my family) do this it means (I presume) not visiting our family - grandparents - for at least four years, if not longer. I don't know if this is unfair to do to my very young kids. But I feel it would be wrong NOT to join the registration if that's what things come to.

Dianna said...

Several of the same things were said about Reagan and he was one of our greatest presidents. We as a society are tired of caring the load and are desperate for change, as we were with Obama, and that was a disaster. It is time for us to take care of our own...white, black, Asian, Hispanic, etc -- US citizens. I'm not sure why you are commenting from Taiwan on something the us people feel so strongly about. Give the man a chance to make a difference.

Jenna Cody said...

If you think Reagan was one of our greatest presidents, I've got a deficit, a made-up "let's scare white people" "Welfare Queen", a recession and an AIDS crisis he ignored to sell you. I don't disagree with everything Reagan did - I like that he raised taxes when it was necessary to do so, for example, and wasn't he the one that banned assault weapons? But someone who ignored a public health crisis that ended in the deaths of millions was in no way one of our "greatest" or even very good. So, right out of the gate you are quite wrong.

If you care about taking care of everyone, why are you giving someone who ran on an openly racist platform, and wants to re-introduce a registry of Muslims (yes - re-introduce - did you know one actually existed post-911, for 8 years? It wasn''t called that, of course. It was called NSEERS, but it did unfairly target Muslims)? If you voted for him despite his openly racist and sexist rhetoric, then I do not take seriously the idea that you care about these groups, because, whether you like it or not, you voted *for* their rhetoric.

I am still, unfortunately, an American citizen. There is no reason why I should not be commenting on an election I voted in for a country I sadly must hold a passport from for at least another year.

But no, I will not give an openly racist and sexist man any chances. Zero. You talk like that, you're done. The second he called Mexicans rapists and drug dealers (the first of many openly hateful comments about minorities, people with disabilities and women) was the second he lost any chance with me. I will work against him in every way I can.

Jenna Cody said...

Hell, forget it's hateful campaign rhetoric.

They are already mulling a Muslim registry.
A member of its transition team has already said Roe v. Wade would be overturned (especially important to me as it would be a direct curtailing of my rights).
They're moving forward with that wall.
They've given a known white supremacist a place in the administration.

Nope. This is not the America I want. No America in which these things happen could possibly be 'great'.

No chances.