Growing up Fast in America

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In the last week, on different days, 3 friends stepped into the conversation about Trump.  One was Russian, another Iranian, and lastly a French person.  Each said Trump will not be a problem because after 4 years someone else will take over.  They only shrugged at the fact that a fascist was going to be President of the most powerful nation of the world.

They assumed they knew politics in America as well as, or better than I.  They did not ask my opinion, nor did they listen to me, but merely continued detailing what they assumed was the truth about my country and the election as if they were the experts.

I tried to explain that the election of Trump is not like any other event in American politics.  I have often voted for candidates who lost.  That is something an American gets used to; it is part of our system.  I may be disgruntled or disappointed or even ticked off about the loss, but it is “just politics,” and of course, “the majority rules,” so I accept the outcome as do my compatriots in their own turn.

But Trump is different.  He is a danger.   He does not know, or does not care, about American law.  He does not understand, or does not care, about international protocol and negotiations.

His character and education are not fit for the complex and important position of President of the U.S.  His attention span prevents him from reading. His temperament is manic-depressive and aggressive.  His language, his ability to debate, and his expressions are childlike, not even adolescent.  He attacks people, rather than ideas, and cannot control his anger, often speaking without thinking.  He has the potential to initiate nuclear war on a whim.

He is narcissistic, always blaming others, accusing others of faults which are his own, diverting attention from serious matters with shouts over minor crises.  He is greedy, in the extreme, to the point he does not mind defrauding others.  He lies with pleasure, this man who received 25% of the ballots of registered voters.

We all know Trump degrades people, anyone and everyone, the high and the low, without shame, apparently believing his insults are entertaining rather than reactionary and hurtful.

These are facts rather than my opinion.  He has proven these things by his behavior and words in the last year, and by his decades of business life.

Trump is a white supremacist.  That is to say, he believes white people are better than others.  This is the basis of fascism, which the free world recently fought against.   One must add, the designation of white people includes only white men.

My friends agree with this assessment of our President-elect.  Even my acquaintances who voted for Trump agree with the appraisal.

So why do these 3 foreigners assume that there is no problem?  Why do they think they know so much?   These 3, who are usually rather nice and smart, they talked insistently and incessantly about their viewpoint on the Trump election, condescendingly and arrogantly.  Why?

I would never assert that I know more about the politics of Russia than a Russian, more about Greek politics than a Greek, or more about the workings of Kenya than a Kenyan, and not even about Canada or Mexico, my neighbors.  I could not pretend that my education, my contact with people from another country, and my travel, give me the same insight that a native person has about his or her country and culture.  Reading newspaper headlines does not qualify me as an authority on situations in another country.

The USA has been in the international limelight for its entire existence because of its unique naissance and influence.  This celebrity has bred a sense of familiarity in the hearts of foreigners, a familiarity somewhat based on movies, headlines, soundbites, and 6 weeks of history class.  I cannot be certain that the majority of American citizens have more knowledge than this about the basics of the USA, but at least they have a lifetime of intimacy with the country’s systems.

It took me several days to move beyond my naiveté and realize that the reactions of the 3 people signified that they like Trump’s perspectives.  They are not worried about his presidency because they too are racist.  They too want a white elite class that rules, and they imagine themselves as the elite.   Call it fascism or alt-right, it is the same thing that the Allies fought against 75 years ago.  It is a world-wide disease that is spreading again.

When I withdrew from each of the 3 conversations, trying to preserve the friendships, trying to dampen the rising anger in my chest, I was told in separate ways that I was being so “American” to refuse to discuss politics.  They added, “It’s cultural.  Americans don’t know how to argue.  They take everything personally.”  And voila!  By using a stereotype, I was dismissed as unimportant.

Actually, I know how to argue quite well, though I cannot always do it.  It requires one to stick to the topic without descending to character assassination.  One must listen.  One needs details and excellent background information.   And one has to avoid sweeping generalizations and stereotypes.  I am willing to participate in this type of argument.  It is the basis of American free speech.  I have never heard this kind of argument from Donald Trump, the man who mocked a paraplegic, the man who thinks he can lead my country.

The day after the election, if one can call it that, I wrote that I would silently withdraw from the new world that was forming itself.  But I have changed my mind.  I cannot stay silent.  Perhaps I cannot change a thing, but I can fight.  I will fight for love.

“Fighting for love” sounds romantic and ridiculous, not to mention oxymoronic.  But to stand silent while hate grows is not something I can do.  Maybe I will actually have to fight and die, but for the moment, I am old and not so powerful, and I will fight by speaking.  I would fight for my child because I love him, and so, I will fight for my beloved country and its principles against fascism, stupidity, and hatred.

What do I do about 3 fascist friends?  This is new for me.  I will have to discover the right actions.  But first, I must not be naïve about who they are.

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