Experiencing the U.S. Election from Afar

Note: This was originally written on the morning of November 9, 2016. I decided against publishing it right away. It’s sat in my drafts, unedited, until now.

Too disappointed
to try to write a better
haiku about this.

I chose to study abroad at an extremely unique time. When people ask me where I’m from, and I tell them I’m from the States (though I’ve actively made an effort to start adding, “but my parents are from the Philippines” in some wild and desperate attempt to prevent myself from being too closely associated with a country and an increasingly divided population of people I’ve been completely disillusioned from), more often times than not, the first thing they’ll bring up is the election season.

Here’s how the conversation usually goes:

“You’re, uh, going through some interesting times over there,” they’ll say in reference to the election.

And I’ll laugh it off, joking that “I guess depending on the outcome of the election, I might be staying here in Scotland a lot longer than just a semester.”

They’ll say in response, “Well, we’ll welcome you here with open arms.”

I’ve had variants of that conversation more times than I can count over the course of the last two months. It’s often said that comedy and laughter are a source of relief, and as I’m solemnly writing this stone-faced and laugh-less in the hours after the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, I know that sentiment to be true now more than ever.

I have watched over the course of the last two months of being here as the election season has divided my country more than ever.

As hate crimes became more and more commonplace. As those hate crimes became more and more associated with Trump as the perpetrators would vandalize their victims’ properties with Trump’s name, bellowing “Make America great again” at the top of their lungs.

As the terrible tapes of Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women were released.

And yet, despite those things, as people continued to defend this man monster under the guise of fiscal conservatism and “Christian” values of pro-life.

Yeah, okay, brief rant time — I am incredibly unimpressed and irritated with those who use their “pro-life” stance to justify their voting for Trump. “Anti-abortion” might be a more accurate term. With Trump’s hateful speech and blatant disrespect for lives that are already born, how could you ever say that the basis as to why you support him is because you’re Christian or “pro-life”?

I’m so exhausted from the anger and disappointment I’m feeling in my country and my fellow citizens. I have no idea how I’m still standing after the course of events of the last day. I want to commit them now to memory here in this blog post.

On the evening of Tuesday, 8 November, I arrived at my friend Kirstin’s flat at around 8:30PM.

wp-1478688385078.jpgShe and our friend Emily and I had been planning to attend the Glasgow University Politics Society’s “U.S. Election All-Nighter” event, but after much deliberation, we decided to stay in just the three of us as opposed to stay up with 150 other people.

At first, it was just like spending time with friends on any other night. We laughed, we ate, we watched silly videos on YouTube, we took ridiculous Snapchats of each other, we listened to the Hamilton soundtrack all the way through and still ended up performing our own a cappella concerts ourselves from memory.

We tried to mask our fear with laughter.

The polls started closing, and we watched in horror as Trump maintained a steady lead against Hillary all night. We ranted angrily. We distracted ourselves with more Hamilton. We tried to mask our fear with laughter. We fought sleep and exhaustion; we forced ourselves to watch our nightmares become reality.

There was a beautiful moment at one point in the night when Hillary was ahead of Trump just by a few electoral votes. I’ll never forget that one fleeting and bright moment of celebration, Emily and I hugging each other and bursting into the kitchen to tell Kirstin.

But by the time it was 5 in the morning here in Glasgow, we weren’t smiling or laughing anymore. (If we were, it was only for that very idea of relief.) I wrote this Facebook status and mourned the projected outcome with friends from around the world over Messenger. Emily left to go back home, and Kirstin and I, despite our nerves, were somehow able to fall asleep around 6AM.

We woke up around 9AM to the heartbreaking news that Hillary had called to concede.

I left at 9:30AM to go home to my flat, emotionally and physically spent.

And on my way back to my flat, here’s what I saw.

I saw a gray and rainy day. It’s been bright, sunny, and dry here far more often than is normal for Scotland; today was one of the first gloomy days we’ve had in a while. I saw students on their way to the university, hidden in rain jackets, their faces buried in scarves.

As I walked down the hill on Great George Street towards Byres Road, I saw a girl with her jacket open, revealing a T-shirt with the iconic “HOPE” Obama design underneath. After seeing that T-shirt, I started to cry for the first time in the last twelve hours, finally relieving some of the pent-up emotion in my chest.

I turned right on Byres Road. I saw an acquaintance from Germany who I hardly recognized in my emotional turmoil. But she smiled at me as we passed each other, murmured a soft “Hey,” and I was able to smile back, if only briefly, and felt my spirits lift just a bit.

On Queen Margaret Drive, I passed by someone with an American accent, chatting on their cellphone to someone about the millennial vote.

I looked at the faces of many college-aged individuals walking down the same street as me, wondering whether they were American or Scottish or from somewhere else, whether they even cared or felt anything about the U.S. election at all. And I wondered what it must be like to not feel the despair I was feeling, the despair so many of my friends in marginalized communities share. What it must be like to have the privilege of not being affected by something so seriously. To be privileged enough to remain blissfully ignorant.

As I walked past the Tesco Express where I often do my last-minute grocery shopping, one of the staff members I’ve come to recognize smiled and acknowledged me through the window. I was able to muster up enough energy to smile back.

I finally make it into my flat. Instead of going to my room and putting my things down, I go straight to the kitchen where I heard the voices of my flatmates, these beautiful women I’ve had the honor and privilege of getting to share life with throughout this semester. I wordlessly set my things down and immediately hug my flatmate Annaliese, who’s from Texas, who I’ve shared the pain and frustration of our country’s current political state with. María walks in, and she must have seen the exhaustion and emotion on my face because she immediately catches me in a hug too. And then Wendy walks in, sees us hugging, and wonders what’s going on. We tell her that Donald Trump won, and her look of shock is devastating. I have a feeling these reactions to the election won’t be getting old for a while.

Chile, China, and the U.S. in one flat, mourning together.

Then I sit down. I try to have some breakfast, and I can’t even stomach two pieces of toast. So instead, I start writing this blog post. I make hopeful plans with Pia to get together with our friends from Chile, Singapore, and Slovenia tonight and just drink away our sorrows over the course of events from the last twenty-four hours. Alcohol’s never the answer, but it sure takes the edge off, and that plus the company of wonderful friends is exactly what we’re all looking for. I don’t want to be alone right now, and I’m so grateful for the friendly faces and warm smiles I’ve seen today.

I may have joked before that I just won’t ever come back from Scotland.

I don’t want that to be a joke anymore. I don’t want to go back to a broken country where bigotry wins. Living in beautiful Scotland would be a dream come true.

But at the same time, I’m buckling in. I’m spreading my arms open wide with love for my friends who are minorities, because God knows we need that now more than ever. We have work to do.


2 thoughts on “Experiencing the U.S. Election from Afar

  1. “But at the same time, I’m buckling in. I’m spreading my arms open wide with love for my friends who are minorities, because God knows we need that now more than ever. We have work to do.”

    Wonderfully written, Manilyn. Sometime after Election Day, I had the opportunity to participate in a solidarity march around downtown Naperville. What I loved about it was that it was not “anti-Trump” or “anti-Republican,” but an expression of love and understanding toward minorities who legitimately feel terrified of the future.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Ann! Yes, I think I know exactly which march you’re talking about 🙂 It was broadcast live on Facebook, and I watched every second of it in real time as it was happening. I was marching right alongside with everyone in spirit!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s