Americans of all stripes – and if you’ve seen Tiger King on Netflix you know how diverse we really are – have one thing in common. We think you want our American passport.
We’ve been brainwashed to believe that from a young age. We think it gives us power and invincibility, is the most valuable thing we have, and that you’re all jealous. Our popular culture is the popular culture. Everyone everywhere wears our Nikes, eats our McDonald’s and drinks our Starbucks.
We play an outsized role on the world stage and, wherever we travel, the success and failure of our nation follows us. In November 2008 while on holiday in Thailand, when people realised I was American they shrieked “Obama, Obama”!
There were New York Yankee hats everywhere and T-shirts for sale with Barack Obama’s picture on them. That’s in Bangkok, 8,600 miles from New York.
Now I get a different response. When I first moved to the UK I saw stuff like the #FakeNews Trump edition game in Paperchase. The box read: “It’s hard to take anything this man says seriously, but some statements are too ridiculous – even for him. Here’s your turn to have some fun trying to decipher what’s #fakenews and what isn’t.” Cringe.
Another time I picked up my dry cleaning and was asked: “How’s your uncle Trump doing?” I don’t want to be associated with Donald Trump. He is truly not my president, and not because I didn’t vote for him.
Before Trump there were divisions in the US, but never like this. After he was elected, a pall settled over the country – and that was before it was clear how dangerous he was. That was when it merely seemed an old, misogynist bully had won the presidency.
Did that incident at the dry cleaner happen during Trump’s Senate impeachment trial? Or when he referred to the coronavirus as “the new hoax”? Or was it every time he had a hissy-fit because someone said something mean about him?
With Trump there’s so much to choose from – and it’s all horrific. Now it feels as if every American ex-pat should wear an “I’m with stupid” T-shirt to show we’re in on the joke. And no, it’s not funny, it’s scary.
My friends and family, including my 74-year-old parents, live in New York City, current epicentre of the pandemic. New York governor Andrew Cuomo has been in a slanging match with Trump over ventilators and other safety equipment New Yorkers desperately need. Trump doesn’t care. He has publicly questioned whether New Yorkers need the equipment.
How does that happen in a country like the United States? Isn’t the primary goal of a leader to keep the people safe?
Trump has gone so far as to tweet support for those protesters looking to “liberate” their states. You know, the ones comparing lock-down to slavery and the internment of Japanese-Americans during the Second World War.
It’s safe to say, as lucky as I feel to be here with my partner and children, I am worried about what I will go home to – if I can ever travel back. I’m also worried about how badly the virus will hit the American population.
I feel guilty accepting free healthcare here while also earning an income – so many Americans have neither. I’m saddened by the choices many Americans have to make, between life and livelihood.
How long did the US government expect the one-time $1,200 per American adult stimulus cheque to last? It’s painful to watch from afar and is such a contrast to how I’ve always felt about being American.
All the minor inconveniences I felt on moving here are dwarfed by this experience. Clothes dryers aren’t a thing here, the refrigerators don’t have ice-makers (we Americans love ice cubes) and the showers aren’t as good as American showers. None of that matters to me right now.
Boris is better
I feel so lucky to live in the UK, where I have the benefit of the NHS, a steady income, and a prime minister who, Brexit notwithstanding, is handling this way better than Trump.
Johnson has full command over the English language and has never suggested anyone drink bleach. He takes the pandemic seriously and has evolved from proudly announcing he’d shaken the hands of the afflicted.
Although testing here could be more robust, at least Johnson isn’t saying it is robust when it isn’t. He has also never referred to covid-19 as “the Chinese virus”, as Trump did, giving credence to the wannabe racists waiting for encouragement.
Perhaps my personal bar for success is low, but I’ll happily “stay alert” if it means I can stay in the UK.
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