GICF act Abigoliah Schamaun discusses the upcoming presidential election in the United States.
GICF act Abigoliah Schamaun discusses the upcoming presidential election in the United States.
I’ve lived in London for just a year and a half. My first ever time abroad was backpacking through Europe during college. Most Americans’ first experience of Europe is in their late teens to early twenties. We go to a city in a country, eat some gelato and wander around a cathedral, then considered that culture “experienced”. We then pack our bags, and take the Eurostar to another country where the same process begins again. When I first hopped across the pond George W. Bush was president and people warned me that Europeans didn’t like Americans so it’d be easier to lie and say I was Canadian. I split the difference and said I was from New York, which I was. Name-dropping a liberal metropolis, no matter which country it is, will undoubtedly make you interesting and give you cool points.
My next trip across the Atlantic was to Germany, where I spent a semester of college. The 2008 primaries were happening and it was between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination. Germans would hear my American accent and just flat out ask, “Who do you think will get it? Who do you want to win?” There was an excitement in the air. A change was about to happen in the U.S.A, and that change was going to be for the better. I no longer needed to put a maple leaf on my backpack. Being an American abroad was cool again. Cut to 2016, I find myself yet again, in another country during the presidential debates and elections. Instead of people asking me Sanders or Clinton, instead of positive electricity pulsing through the air carrying hope and positive change for America, people come up to me after a show with a confused look and just say “Trump? Why?” And to be honest I’m not quite sure. But I do have my guesses.
America was founded on a dream. As hokey as it sounds The American Dream is introduced to us at a young age, and by the time we are adults it’s in our blood and we believe it to our core. We may grow out of the Tooth Fairy, Santa Clause, and the Easter Bunny. But we never stop believing that The United States is The Land of Opportunity and “…that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” In America we believe that if you work hard, you will be rewarded. I think some people look at Donald Trump, a real estate mogul and billionaire, and think “if he did it, I can do it. And if he’s president maybe some of that money smarts will help save the country.” Not to mention he’s a good public speaker. Even those of us who hate what he says must admit, he says it with panache.
People now say that in 2004 Americans voted for the president with whom they would like to share a beer. In the coming election, or at least in the primaries, it looks like American folk might vote for the drinking buddy with the best stories. Trump can hold court, he speaks directly and simply, and he’s charismatic. He wants America to be great, we want America to be great. He’s rich, we want to be rich and we want America to be rich. He doesn’t speak with that droning rehearsed, politician speak. When Trump takes the podium it doesn’t sound like he had a team of writers put those words together for him like they do for so many other presidential candidates. He says what he wants how he wants to say it. I have a lot of friends like that, and they’re my best friends because of it. When Trump starts talking it’s an entertaining and enjoyable speech to watch; but then he keeps talking, and talking. “Ban Muslims” “Mexicans are rapists” “Cruz isn’t American enough to run for president.” As I sit and listen to this, all I can think is, “Surely, the polls must be wrong. Is anyone else listening to this?”
When Trump first announced his presidency every liberal democrat I know clapped their hands together and said, “This’ll be a circus! Awesome.” Well, it still is a circus, but right now the band is playing Stars and Stripes Forever and the elephant is destroying the tent while onlookers ooh and ahh oblivious to the chaos and danger all around them.
Whenever I’m at a show and I hear a comic do a joke about how Americans are stupid I bristle. First of all, it’s a hack premise; if that’s the best you can do, you’re boring. Second, and more importantly, we’re not. Maybe most Americans can’t point to Sussex on a map, but can you point to Wyoming? Didn’t think so. It’s a big country, and our politics actively change world politics. Living abroad has proven that to me. A Democratic or Republican president might make a difference to how things go down in England. But a Tory government does not affect someone’s life in Piqua, Ohio. I’m sorry, it just doesn’t. For better or worse that’s why international politics are not a priority in our school system. Despite not knowing international politics the way English and other European people do, Americans are still smart. We’re librarians, teachers, scientists, business owners, and entrepreneurs too. We are able to absorb knowledge at the same pace other countries’ citizens can. To suggest Americans are stupid is a one dimensional stereotype.
Then I turn on the Republican Presidential Debates and I watch seven candidates support the defunding of Planned Parenthood. They all promise to send our tax dollars to help the military grow. Every last one of them swear to abolish Obama Care. Of those seven men the shining light of conservative hope among all of them is Donald Trump. I watch this as I sit alone in my London flat, clutching a pillow in the dark, and whisper to myself, “Maybe we are stupid. Maybe we are…”
Then I look over at what’s going on in the Democratic primaries. And what a show! Bernie and Clinton are not just campaigning for the Presidential nomination; they’re debating what it is to be a Democrat. It’s like being back in that same circus tent watching one donkey trying to convince you it’s a beautiful Palomino while the other just shrugs and says, “No, I’m a donkey. That’s what I thought we all signed on for.” Two candidates, both with their own definition of the Democratic party. Bernie Sanders is the first man I’ve seen in my 30 years to run for president who calls himself a socialist. And yet to my surprise no one is chasing after Sanders with pitch forks and running him out of town. Can you imagine? A Democratic Socialist American President?! That’s the kind of America where we might learn where Sussex is on a map! This man wants to make the US healthcare system more like the British system. He wants tax dollars to pay for higher education as oppose to education being the financial burden of individual families. To be able to do that America would need a broad tax increase across the board. We hate tax increases! Yet young people are rallying around him.
Then you have Hillary Clinton, who takes a far more central view to the Democratic party. She’s focused on achievable goals. Her promise is to work with the system we have to make change. But I feel like our system hasn’t been working for most of Americans for quite some time.
When Hilary announced her candidacy I was so excited. I might get to vote for the first American female president. How cool would that be?! One day I could tell the daughter I don’t plan on having that I was there and I voted for a part of my country’s history. However, as the debates have gone on, I’ve listened to Clinton and sadly realized that her policies might not align with mine. Being a strong independent woman isn’t about blindly supporting other strong independent women. It’s about listening to the options and making an informed decision yourself. I admitted to an English friend how thrilled I was when Clinton first entered her name in the hat. “Because you wanted to vote for a woman president?” He asked. “Yes.” I replied a little disappointed in myself for wanting to put gender before policy. He just nodded and said, “Ask 1980’s England how that turned out for them.” Hilary Clinton wants to work within the system we have to create change. Bernie Sanders wants to alter the system which will spur on much bigger change.
Though American has lived under a Democratic presidency for the last eight years it still feels like the conservatives have the country in their grips. Women’s reproductive rights are constantly under attack and being slowly taken away in some states, the gun laws are not changing despite the countless shootings, and healthcare still has a long way to go before it’s completely changed for the better. Maybe we don’t need someone in the middle who can talk to corporations. If we’ve learned anything from almost every Netflix documentary it’s corporations, from the food industry to big Pharma, that have America under their thumb. If corporations are keeping the citizens of America from being great then maybe we need a far left (far left for America that is) politician swinging from a branch shaking that huge tree.
To those who are scared of a more socialized American, take a look at countries where they have a socialized system. Anyone ever been to Scandinavia? Those countries are thriving. The website studyindenmark.dk says higher education is free in Denmark for students from the EU/EEA and Switzerland. The Washington Post says, according to the Danish Students’ Grants and Loan Scheme (Statens Uddannelsesstøtte), students get up to $900 per month to help with living expenses during their studies. Instead of leaving college tens of thousands of dollars in debt they get paid to GO TO SCHOOL! If the system we’re in right now isn’t and hasn’t been working for the everyday American, why not vote to change it?
I ask myself that as I log onto the internet for my daily dose of news and see Bernie Sanders is rising in the polls. And I see that young people are excited and coming out in support of new and different ideas. I sit in front of my computer clutching my coffee cup, as the bright sun streams into my little London flat and think to myself, “Maybe we aren’t stupid. Maybe we aren’t stupid at all.”
See Abigoliah this March! She'll be on at Blackfriars Basement, 12 March, 7.30pm. Get tickets HERE.