By the time I finish writing this, the soap-opera-reality-show that has become the U.S. presidential election will probably be over *sigh of relief* and we’ll have a new boss who will make some pretty big decisions in the next 4 years that might determine the next 20 years or more *nervous laughter*. Now, before I lose you because, like me, I’m sure you’re EXHAUSTED of hearing about this election, I promise I’m not going to just write another political piece, too many of which have consumed our news for the last 18 months (or seemingly 18 years because we haven’t figured out how to cut our political campaign lifespan into fractions yet.)
First of all, in no way, shape, or form do I intend to promote either candidate, especially because I’m sure by the time you’re reading this, you and I both will know who is sitting in the White House, but as an American student living in another country during this wild time in politics, which I can imagine only a handful of people can say, I want to share some thoughts and tidbits I’ve learned as a citizen looking from the outside in:
- I never imagined just how much U.S. history is taught in other countries. Honestly, my Chilean brothers could probably destroy me in a game of U.S. history trivia….meanwhile I briefly remember failing AP World History….
- The daily news in other countries is predominantly about our current election with some minor parts about what’s happening in their respective countries. Meanwhile, we have borderline no idea when a country’s leadership changes if it’s not considered a country of interest to the U.S., which is so dumb because this leads to a lack of awareness of huge political issues within other nations.
- Most of the content in the “international news” sections of our media is concerned with the Middle East/Asian countries while significant events are happening in South America and Central America with almost no coverage. For instance, I suggest you look up recent news in Venezuela or Nicaragua.
- Obviously this might be a ridiculous statement, but it’s possible that people in other countries are more concerned about our election than we are. For instance, I’ve never been asked by complete strangers who I’m voting for to determine if the rest of our conversation was going to be pleasant or not until I lived in Latin America. And when I say “strangers”, I mean I’ve been asked by at least the last 4 Uber drivers that I’ve had. People outside of the U.S. have experienced how our internal politics have affected their countries and I never looked at elections as such a global affair. Yes, of course I know countries are all connected, especially to the U.S., but until recently I’d never sat around a table with people who have felt so completely burned by the decisions of my country (and quite honestly, not been aware of most of it, which makes me want to punch myself in the face.)
- Explaining how our elections work in Spanish is so much harder than I thought it would be.
- I’ve had moments where I felt as though my years of education have cheated me of some pretty interesting and shocking history. Recently I’ve been made aware of how the U.S. has been involved in some really shady stuff that I would like to pretend couldn’t possibly happen under the leadership of those that we’ve elected into power, but it did, and still does happen. So even though I pledge all of my patriotism to my country, my home, I am learning just how much historical information didn’t quite make it into my classroom curriculum.
- We need to do some chores at home before we go outside to play, if ya know what I mean. For instance: our national debt is unreal and hasn’t seen any kind of improvement since never even though we keep electing people who promise to improve things for our piggy banks, our welfare programs pay more than teacher salaries but we wonder why unemployment is an issue, our treatment and care for veterans is disgraceful, and racial issues that shouldn’t even exist anymore are dominating local news. Come on. We can be better than this.
- But most importantly, what I’ve learned from this whole process and from watching our news from an outsider’s perspective, is that I as a journalism student want to write genuine truth, covering issues that are forgotten and cast aside, and being a voice for someone who doesn’t have a platform to speak. And whether you agree with me or not, I think that voice is heard when we vote because as my 8th grade history teacher would say, “You can’t complain if you don’t vote.”
This election has been one of the most bizarre in our nation’s history. We’ve elected people of incredible aptitude and also those who have set our country back, but no prior election has garnered the attention, passion, and opposing American voices like this one. I pray that when we swear a new leader into office come January, that we as citizens would use these voices of such strong opposition and support toward creating morally good change in this home of ours and to tear each other down or look at each other merely as members of political parties, but as fellow citizens.
We the people deserve better education, better leaders, better news, and a better country and what I know to be true is that the best way to create that, not only for ourselves but for the sake of our whole world (no seriously), is to become informed citizens and to become passionate about issues at home and in our neighboring countries and to then use that information to vote for people who might get us a little closer to “better”.