Echoes of an American Election

Mid-December 2015, I found myself in the apartment of my 91-year-old man — and his wife — in Mumbai. The man was the grandfather of a good college friend of mine whom I was exploring the India’s major cities and sites along with meeting her relatives and enjoying some quality Indian cuisine. Our discussions were a bit difficult, because, as an American, I struggled to enunciate English words consistently to enable a rhythmic conversation. So we stuck to simple subjects in my native tongue and his third or fourth language, that — having grown up in a small village — he had not learned until later in life. He told me that every day after his morning walk he watched the news on the television and read the paper.

‘Donald Trump. He’s crazy’, where the words that came out of his mouth once discussion turned to world events and the news he had been seeing.

‘Yes.’ I nodded, bobbing my head particularly low to ensure there was no confusion and understanding that we were in complete agreement.

In this moment, I was reminded about something that had failed to be properly iterated in my college international relations but I had very much learned while living in Germany a year earlier — the world watches America. The lunacy of the Republican primaries was no exception. Somehow the absurd and offensive comments of The Donald and the American media sound waves had made their way, not just across the Atlantic but to this small apartment in central Mumbai.

Trump’s true support was not truly recognized or understood in December 2015, and I tried to brush it off and laugh about it. But, this man had clearly been affected by it enough to say something, and he was not just someone in my office or on the street in Chicago, he was in Mumbai. How was the rest of India digesting the current American election? How is the rest of the world responding to these absurd Republican primary shouting-matches? What does the ridiculousness of our current election do to our international image and ability to work with other countries?

The UK Parliament was so offended by anti-Muslim remarks by Donald Trump that they held a parliamentary session to discuss not talking to him if he were elected president. Although this seemed primarily for show, it demonstrated that the level of discourse in the Republican primaries had edged itself underneath our ally’s skin. Our neighbors to the south reached a level of frustration over comments regarding Mexicans and the wall that will supposedly be paid for by them that the former President of Mexico, Vincent Fox, has resorted to shouting explicit about Donald Trump.

Further, various media sources across Europe have placed begun to publish articles and cover-stories regarding Donald Trump and the rest of the Republican field — most often in the negative. Pictures and comics, now printed weekly, depict their arrogance and ignorance: Donald Trump has been likened to Hitler, and shown as riding an elephant that has taken a dump on the statue of liberty.

The sound waves of this election have not just irritated other countries, other countries have begun to react, and some of those reactions have in-turn reached our soil. We now see the annoyance and concern that people around the world have with the tone that is being set in the Republican primaries. And, when Republicans presidential candidates are told about this on the campaign field, they roll their eyes and fail to say anything meaningful in response, truly missing the fact that this is not a great first step in their path to becoming leader of the free world.

I am not advocating for our country to make a certain decision in this election because others are watching, I’m advocating for us to make a decision with the understanding that others are involved, and that our actions have consequences. The way we interact with others is critical to the world operating in a functional and (as close as we can be to) peaceful existence. We have enough problems to deal with, both domestically and abroad, there is no need to create more. It is time for the shouting to stop and a level of seriousness to take its place.