It’s a starkly different world. Stark I tell you.
I am in Milan for Humans on the Move & CILD’s first co-convened event, Cities for All. This is my first time in Milan and in Italy and its also my first trip since election day. While some things never change, like how much you pay to go to the bathroom (yes folks that’s a thing), does not equal the quality of said toilet… others well do.
I have had the fortune to travel and live outside of the US under every president, however I really wasn’t engaging locals and fellow travellers in conversations about politics until probably 1999 when I lived in Paris at 16. The reaction this week to being from the United States and not really wanting to discuss the “shit show” that is the President Elect has been starkly different. I mention this on Twitter last night but didn’t really elaborate hence this post.
So here goes nothing —some framing, I am a dual citizen of the US and Brazil, so I have understood from a young age that regardless of where I am in the world watching the local national news, what is happening in or impacting the United States is usually not too far behind the lead story(sometimes the US stories will lead foreign broadcasts). I mention this because if you have not had the chance to travel and/or live outside the US, I don’t know that you appreciate how much what happens in the US has ripple effects globally. So often times, even in the some of the oddest places, non-Americans have a general idea of what’s happening in the US.
Hence the reactions I have gotten:
- In 1999, when I studied in Paris, Bill Clinton was in office. However, when it came to Parisians and other Europeans, I was asked often what the fuss was about over oral sex and extra marital relations. When I say often, I am talking rounds and rounds of wine and discussions… And perspective that I am still appreciative of.
- In the summer and fall of 2002, I lived in Mexico, which was the build up to the Iraq war. It was fascinating to be outside the US and get pushed on the “you are either with us or against us” conversation. “Why Iraq?” was a common question, and then of course I got to hear Mexicans tell me what they thought the reasons were (and well lets just say some of them were out there).
- In late 2004 when I was in Spain, Germany, and the Czech Republic, unless it was obvious (Davis Cup Final in Sevilla), I didn’t bring up that I was from the US. There was strong anti-US sentiment around Bush in general and conversations were polarizing if they were had at all. There were also strong security concerns about being a US citizen, so if asked I was either Brazilian or Canadian.
- In 2009, there was genuine sense of hope and excitement about President Obama coming into office. I could sense it in conversations, he has connected with so many people beyond it was palpable in conversations. There were great conversations.
- This trip, this week, when I got to Milan and checked into my hostel I stumbled into a conversation and drinks with two Americans, one who is a former GOP Campaign consultant that left the US in May and another a former computer programmer that worked for the Federal Government in North Dakota. Both left because of the election and/or political climate. None of us really wanted to talk about it, but there was a level of empathy around politics from Italians and others I haven’t seen or heard before. Literally, “I am sorry” has come up, and this is what we did under Berlusconi…
I have no idea what the next 4 years will hold, but the last few days have been a reminder that it is going to be different. Perhaps it pulls us together as global citizens more than ever before. It sure would be better than the alternative.