THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
Trump, Clinton ...and Chickpeas
As an American who's lived abroad for almost 20 years, in addition to missing Cheetos, cheese-filled-hot dogs and drive-thru banking, every four years I miss not being in the US for the Presidential election season. Luckily, with social media and live streaming of nearly every moment of any campaign, we expats don't miss as much anymore. Everything is online now; not long ago most of the major news networks cut to an empty podium for about ten minutes hoping Donald Trump might say something. The podium ended up saying more of substance than he did that day.
I'm sure my fellow Americans overseas have shared my experience living here – where we become the de facto representatives of everything that people don't like about the US. I lived here during the George W Bush years, and was held responsible for his reelection. I was also responsible for the Iraq War. Thankfully, the Chilcot Report finally came out and it was a massive relief as it really took the pressure off me. Before that people would come up to me and saying, "Why did you invade Iraq?" I would always tell them, "It was a difficult personal decision, I just don't understand hummus." I mean if you have hummus you know it's delicious. But do you know what it's made from? Chickpeas. Have you ever looked inside a can of chickpeas? They are disgusting. I wanted to invade Iraq just to get the recipe.
And this election season there has been plenty to be asked about. Especially about Trump. It always happens the same way. First the person finds out I am an American and asks, "What do you make of Donald Trump?" Then just as I start to say what I think, they cut me off and say, "Here's what I think…" Basically, they don't want to ask me anything, they just want a willing target to hear their theory on my country of origin.
We used to be the wackiest
It's not surprising people are interested, American politics is the weirdest and wackiest in the Western world – well we used to be the wackiest until the UK did Brexit. That has taken some of the pressure off of us.
And Brexit does have lessons for us watching what is happening back home. Michael Gove said it best in the run up to the EU referendum. People "have had enough of experts." And for those people Donald J. Trump is the perfect candidate. Nearly every fact checker service rates more than half of what he claims to be false. Experts weren't going to sway the majority of British people that it was risky to leave the EU. In America there are plenty of people who don't believe in their local weather forecast, much less in climate change.
In lieu of flowers
I often get asked why Hillary isn't doing better. Brits don't realise the level of loathing she generates. It's a level of hatred that makes the way people in parts of the UK feel about Margaret Thatcher seem like a playground crush.
Some people hate Hillary Clinton so much, they don't even stop hating her after they are dead. You can tell you don't like someone when death doesn't get in the way of how you feel about them. National Public Radio ran a brilliant piece on people including political messages in their obituaries. NPR is a national American treasure. It is like the BBC but simultaneously more interesting and more boring.
When Elaine Fydrych of New Jersey died she asked, "in lieu of flowers, please do not vote for Hillary Clinton." Ouch. It goes both ways though. Some see death as the only way to stop Donald becoming President. In the obituary of Joseph Vogt, his family stated, "Joe also loved the Republican Party. God bless him, as this will thankfully be one less vote for Donald Trump in the presidential election." Let's hope he died of natural causes, since that's a pretty nasty way to stop Trump from winning.
I will admit I'm supporting Hillary this year. Although her slogan, "I'm with Her" is terrible. It makes it sound like she's saying, "I'm with her, she might as well be President, since she's already got a set of Presidential China."
I'm voting for Hillary partly so I can tell my daughter that I helped elect the first female President of the United States. As she and my young son grow up they will come of age remembering an African American and a female President.
I know some day my son will probably ask me, "When does a white kid like me get a chance to be President?"
And while every Presidential race looks like it could be the most important in history, this one does look like one for the books. For many it won't be an easy decision. But maybe the best thing to do is to follow in the footsteps of one woman, who according to the Richmond Times Dispatch, "Faced with the prospect of voting for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, Mary Anne Noland of Richmond chose, instead, to pass into the eternal love of God on Sunday."
Save us a seat Mary Ann, we might not be that far behind you.
Erich McElroy, is an American born, British based stand-up comedian. This August he will be at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe performing his latest show, Erich McElroy's (US) Electile Dysfunction everyday at 1.20pm from the 4th to the 28th August. You can get details at www.erichmcelroy.com and you can follow him on twitter @erichmcelroy