Friday, June 2, 2017

Ashamed to be American

The PhD, the chaos of life and all the craziness that has happened in the world over the last nearly two years since I last posted has caught up with me. But the news I woke up to this morning hit me like a punch in the gut this morning. I've refrained from writing about Trump, both before the election and after. I must confess his election was not only a shock to me but the fact that the community I grew up in (white evangelicals) played a pivotal role in electing him. I think before this election I cared about politics loosely. I naively thought that we could come together with differing views and brainstorm solutions. Although in my short voting history I've never voted republican, I've still considered myself an independent voter, so I've never demonized republicans as I see many hard core liberals do. I remember in September 2015, being in Rwanda and getting asked if Trump could really become president. I very confidently assured the Rwandan man that this could never happen. Americans are not racist or misogynist enough to let him get nominated and win. But the 2016 election really made me question how well I even know my country. I've spent the last 7 years seeking to show my non American friends a different side of the America they read about in the news. But when I saw Donald Trump get nominated and then elected I had to confront the depressing reality that problems with our political system aside, Americans had elected this man. A man who has never hidden who he is: misogynist, racist, self centered, bigoted.

Something most of my recent friends don't know about me is that my parents actually voted republican for most of their lives. Now they have altered their views largely as a result of living abroad and realizing how behind the US is in many respects, and by reading data and multiple news sources voraciously. I have so much respect for especially my mom in this regard. It's an example to me too and for anyone on either side of the political spectrum. Even when my parents probably considered themselves republican, they never demonized the "other side" and their lives were an example of seeking to care for those less fortunate, engaging with and loving people who didn't share their views. I think this example is what has helped me when I make my voting decisions.

Now the US, a country with the largest GDP in the world and the highest CO2 emitter has pulled out of the Paris agreement. It's difficult to describe the emotions I feel at the moment, I think about the Ugandan farmers and small business owners I interviewed for my master thesis who cited climate change as one of their biggest challenges in recent years, I think about the many people suffering from increasingly severe droughts, I think about the next generation of children. While there are many reasons to be optimistic--city level initiatives, or the statistics that show that the majority of Americans support action against climate change, or the fact that the overwhelming majority of the world is committed to the Paris agreement--as an American I'm deeply saddened and crushed. One of the things I've missed most about the US and felt most proud of as an American is our innovative spirit. The many people willing to do something different. We have so much to be proud of throughout our short history, but this is not that moment. My country has become one where we were willing to elect government officials who won't take a stand against climate change, racism, bigotry, poverty and income inequality. A country that many scholars argue became great BECAUSE of immigrants and yet we turn away those fleeing war because of their nationality and religion even though we were founded on the basis of separation of church and state. A country where Christians are willing to vote for a man who stands for all these things because of the small chance that he might overturn abortion even when statistics consistently show that where abortion is increasing is in countries were it's illegal but there's minimal access to proper education and healthcare for women. Even when statistics show a link between poverty and abortion and we are unwilling to take action against rising income inequality. A country where we refuse to address the issue of gun deaths, but will do anything in our power to stop terrorism even though these deaths per year are minimal in comparison to the number of people who die because their child accidentally shot them, or people who die from heart disease or cancer.

So my faint hope today is that we won't let this continue. Young people need to get out and vote and stop letting their parents decide their future, that Christians would stand up for the poor, the refugees, and our planet and that we would let go of our ideologies and work together. Trump's decision is a dark moment in our history and I can only hope we will learn from our mistake and not let this continue.  

No comments:

Post a Comment