An open letter to my non-American friends and neighbors

What’s up? It’s me, your friendly neighborhood Yankee. Even if you don’t know me personally, you may have seen me around. You see, I unintentionally stand out sometimes. I walk and talk too fast (the latter with an accent when I do so en español), I wear tank tops when it’s sunny and 80 26 degrees out (still fairly chilly for my little corner of Andalucia, where it supposedly reaches 104 40 every day in the summer), I use alien terms like “miles” and “gallons” and “Fahrenheit” instinctively because even after 8 months of living here, my brain still isn’t used to immediately launching into the conversions.

Let’s have a chat.

A lot of you are vaguely familiar with the idea of the United States even having never set foot in the Western hemisphere, which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s still a shock to me how much influence my national culture has even an ocean away. The very first thing I saw on TV here was a Spanish-dubbed How I Met Your Mother Cómo Conocí a Vuestra Madre episode in a Madrid hotel room back in September. The students at the high school where I work regularly traipse into class wearing t-shirts boldly emblazoned with the stars and stripes. Taylor Swift and Maroon 5 blare on the radio. America has made her presence known around here, but so few of you actually know what we’re all about (through no fault of your own), and a lot of you ask me the same questions. Even though they’re based on stereotypes, I don’t mind so much as it gives me the chance to explain my country on a deeper level and get a dialogue going.

So, just to get it over with: no, I don’t own a gun – I’ve never even touched a gun and I have no interest in ever doing so. I’m not overweight because I make an effort to work out and eat relatively healthy (though I’ll never turn down chocolate). No, I am not from New York. No, I’m not from California, either. And at the risk of disappointing you, I have no idea what the hell we’ve gotten ourselves into politically.

The 2016 presidential race hurts to watch. I felt my heart sink when news outlets started declaring Trump the “presumptive GOP nominee” this week. He’s the guy with the hair who many of you, in conversing with me, have referred to as “el racista” or “el matón.” The fact that you, my non-American friends, know the potential leader of my country as “the racist” and “the bully” makes me feel ashamed, even though I haven’t done anything wrong. I have always been proud to be an American and I always will be. I know my country isn’t perfect and I never claimed that it was. But the only thing that makes me genuinely feel ashamed is when I have to explain this buffoon to people from other countries (about 99.9% of the people I interact with in person on any given day).

“How did he get to be so popular? Clearly Americans are voting for him,” you ask, and the answer is that I don’t know. I could sit here and make up scenarios all day. Maybe it’s because he’s a Washington outsider and his lack of professional political experience make him appealing to those who are tired of the establishment. Maybe it’s because he hosted a popular TV show and said “You’re fired.” The short answer: I have no clue.

And despite his winning streak in the primaries, a lot of us still don’t like the guy. A Washington Post-ABC News poll showed him as the least-popular presidential candidate in modern times, with 67 percent of Americans viewing him unfavorably. Nobody I know supports him. In fact, the majority of the content I see on social media and elsewhere on the internet seems to be, if anything, vehemently anti-Trump. Even though I just said it, it bears repeating: I don’t know.

I want you all to know that despite what polling numbers say, this is not what we as Americans stand for. We are so much better than the racism-driven speeches, sexist comments, and violence at rallies. I’m not writing to you as the stereotypical overweight gun-toting American you might be picturing, because that’s not me. I’m writing as a real, regular American citizen – just your average everyday Yank from a town in the Midwest you’ve never heard of, and it breaks my heart to see what my country is coming to.

I’ll be honest and say that there are a lot of Donald Trumps in America. They might not have the money or the hair, but they hold the same prejudiced, bigoted views of the world. Denying this and pretending that we’re a perfect utopia bathed in an eternal red, white, and blue glow would make no sense.

But there are terrible people in every country, and I don’t want you to let your mental image of the US be tarnished by these black sheep. The majority of Americans I know are kind, thoughtful, hard-working individuals who would be the first to encourage any of you to follow whatever dream you may have (they don’t call it the Land of Opportunity for nothing). Please get to know us beyond the pomp and circumstance of international media. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

They say that when the United States sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold. I just want you to know that I and millions of other regular everyday American citizens like me are holding our  proverbial noses to stop this sneeze before it even gets out.

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As much as I love Spain, there was nowhere else I’d rather be this past December than home for the holidays.
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One Comment Add yours

  1. Roger says:

    Great post Lindsey, you know I do not own a gun either and I can’t vote for Trump. I will probably not vote this time; I am tired of voting against people and just can’t vote for four more years of Obamacare. We will probably have a woman President for the first time which is a great thing, hopefully the people you meet will take note of that. Your posts also make me laugh too, I am glad you are learning so much about the world and experiencing it for yourself.

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