Its been quite a week. I’ve spent some time trying to wrap my head around it and so far reality is evading me. I did not want to write this blogpost. However, we are living history, and being in Moscow at this time is a unique experience. I’ll try to keep this short and sweet.
Elections as an ex-pat are atypical as a given. I vote months in advance (by email) and I have the advantage of avoiding the inundation of campaign ads and even web news. This election made headlines even here in Russia, and I was certainly ready for it to be over.
Back in Stockholm, an older man had asked me for directions in Swedish. He was from Finland, with a son living in Sweden, and was on his way to catch a ferry back home. He quickly asked me who I supported in the upcoming election. When he found out I lived in Moscow, he asked me point blank who I thought was more dangerous – Putin or Trump? He had plenty to say. It always surprises me how much people abroad know of politics in the US, while citizens of the US on the whole know seemingly little about other countries’ politics.
This election has long been the source of discussion in my classroom and I’ve been impressed with my students’ knowledge of the issues at hand. The majority are not of American lineage or citizenship.
Fast forward to Election Day 2016. We’re 8 hours ahead of EST, so I spent my Wednesday morning listening to election results roll in from across the States. The decision was announced mid-morning and my students and I went through the roller coaster ride together – many of them speaking candidly as Grade 7 students are wont to do. Disbelief was the common refrain. There were some tears, some anger. The results were a blow to my core belief system and I found myself still shaking slightly as I arrived home 7 hours later.
As evidenced by Vladimir Putin’s congratulatory telegram (진짜 ?) to Trump, the mood is shifting here Moscow. It was only last month that the relationship between the two countries was so hostile that I thought perhaps I wouldn’t be able to complete my two year contract. Now I have delivery men and some coworkers congratulating me on the election results. Though their words don’t sting as quite much as it did last Wednesday, it turns my stomach every time. I can only wonder what fate holds in store when tensions sour between the two men – and I believe they will.
There’s certainly much reflecting to be done now that the dust is beginning to settle. The US has certainly been knocked off our high horse – even Urban Dictionary thinks so. And it’s already effecting my friends who are traveling – greeted at Customs with a laugh or sarcastic congratulations when they show an American passport.
For now, I’m taking solace in this performance from Kate McKinnon and donating to organizations that I support, particularly Planned Parenthood. Just yesterday I sent a donation to Planned Parenthood of Hawaii. I remember being shocked by the abject poverty I witnessed during my visit to the Big Island. Inspired by the suggestion of a few female roll models (Nasty Women?), I pledged my donation in honor of a certain VP-elect and had a thank you letter sent to his office at Indiana’s State Capitol. I challenge each of you to think of an organization that will need extra love and support in the coming four years. Please don’t hesitate – it’s time to take responsibility for what we believe in. After all, as Michelle says – “When they go low, we go high”.