Flavia: “Do you like Donald Trump?” (while smiling)
Me: “That man is loco” (with a mockery face)
Flavia: “I hope Donald Trump wins!” (another smile)
Me: “WHAT?! Are you crazy, why?” (eye’s bulging out of my face)
Flavia: “Because he’s so stupid he won’t care about South America, where Hillary is smart and she will come to Brazil and destroy its resources.” (serious face)
Me: “Interesting point. I hadn’t considered thinking of a candidate as being so stupid that he/she won’t fuck up the rest of the world.” (semi-serious face)
This recent conversation between Flavia (she was recently featured in our Street Tails article) and me illustrates a common dialogue we experience with people we meet while traveling. Distrust in the United States from abroad is universally high given the expansive history of supporting authoritative regimes around the world, especially almost all of South America. After 23 countries of travel, without a doubt, the very first question question we get when a stranger finds out we’re from the US is “what do you think of Obama?” Jen and I usually have a standard answer about him taking over Bush’s mess and that he’s done some good things, but hasn’t fully lived up to the hype and promises he brought with him to the White House. This usually resonates in our conversations as Barrack is immensely popular abroad (he’s got a 77% confidence rating in Europe).
Then comes the inevitable, delicately packed “do you like Donald Trump?”
This is where things get interesting and not for obvious reasons. People from around the world genuinely want to know what we think, but really they want to know if what they read and see actually matches the reality of what is going in the United States. Only after we explain that he’s bat shit crazy, do they let their true feelings out. In terms of being polite, strangers only to let their feelings known after know they won’t offend us.
What We Hear
Here are some of our favorite snippets of conversation regarding Trump abroad:
“Does he really want to build a wall and have Mexico pay for it? That’s insane.” – Jonas from Germany
Yes. Yes he does. The wall debacle is front center to people not understanding Trump’s logic.
“How are people so stupid? Seriously, how? I don’t understand how he is going to be president. Who would actually vote for him?” – Julien from France
I hate trying to explain why people will vote for Trump. I typically describe it as a cocktail recipe consisting of one part fear-based rhetoric (immigrants, economy, and healthcare), one part that Hillary isn’t very popular either, and one part loathing of anyone with political experience as they’re sick of gerrymander in US politics.
“He is a bad man. Scary for the United States. He’s like George Bush.” – 10 year old Peruvian kid.
We couldn’t believe a 10 year old kid from Peru had the knowledge to understand the current political climate in the United States and compare it to the Bush era.
“You guys are fucked.” – Jesse from Australia
We have heard a lot of sentiment like this. If Trump has gotten this far, it clearly speaks volumes about the country. Checkout this video of Irish people’s reaction to Donald Trump, it’s hilarious:
We have not heard a single positive comment about him other than a Chilean women at pet shop who favored his strong and dominant personality. She didn’t seem to know any of his policies, history of sexual abuse, bankruptcies, or other atrocious behavior. As it turns out, Trump’s appeal abroad is at 9% with Europeans so our first-hand experience matches this opinion.
Unfortunately, modern media dictates foreign perception. This is flat out scary and a big deal because 90% of people we meet think the US is just a bunch gun-toting, flag-burning, capitalist assholes who like to blow things up and eat McDonalds. Jen and I do our best to try and explain that what they see online or on TV is just a small sample of Americans, and that it really doesn’t represent the population as a whole. It’s media sensationalism and is driven by ad revenue.
To be honest, I’m sick and tired of defending the United States. How can I when polls show over 40% of Americans plan on voting for Trump despite his reckless history, overt racism and xenophobia, and complete lack of political experience?
The true state of American politics is a cluster fuck of not getting anything positive done and it’s no surprise given the polarizing blame game. All the rhetoric and headlines translates abroad to meaning “what is wrong with the United States?”
So I’ll leave that question to you. What the heck is wrong with the United States? How is it possible that a character like Donald Trump can represent over 40% of the vote?