2016 US elections. Why I give a f#ck.

I’m not American nor do I live in the US. Yet I follow US elections closely, obsessively some might say.

I know where the candidates stand on the issues, the talking points, the latest breaking news, and how polls and electoral maps are trending. I watched the 3 debates live, plus the VP debate… on GMT timezone!

It’s one of the most harshly disputed US election of recent years. Pundits on CNN talk of election fatigue: everyone wants it to be over. Yet, I follow.

Colleagues and friends ask me: Why? One one hand it’s personal, on the other, it should matter to you too.

It’s personal

My mother was born in the USA. She never lived there but my grandpa did. He emigrated in the thirties still a teenager and lived overseas for over 30 years. He learned all sort of trades in construction in the US and served as a combat engineer in WW2 rebuilding bridges in the wake of D-Day. After the war, he built a life for himself in the US. With a family split on both sides of the Atlantic, he crossed the ocean back and forth by ship over 10 times.

By the late 60’s, already in his late 40’s, he came back to Portugal where he settled permanently. With him, he brought an enduring gratitude to the country that welcomed him and a sense of pride in his double passport. His identity was shaped by America. He also brought a not so subtle reminder of his admiration for all things made in America, his 54’s Hudson Jet.

He called it the ‘Ice Breaker’. For obvious reasons.

American Exceptionalism

I grew up hearing stories about his adventures abroad. Hearing about how America is the greatest country on Earth: the D-Day, the moon landing, JFK’s call for the fall of the wall. I grew up trusting products made in America and believing that Coca Cola is a healthy drink — it was initially used as a medicine after all.

Most of all, I was always fascinated by the words engraved at the base of the Statue of Liberty.

Symbols and values matter.
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

As I grew older, I got interested in geopolitics and learned about US foreign policy. My admiration for America started to wane. Then G. W. Bush got elected, 9/11 happened… a lot followed. I knew grandpa was not happy with Bush but I simply avoided the subject. I did not believe in American exceptionalism anymore, and I knew how much it was important to him.

American Values

As Obama steps down, It saddens me that grandpa didn’t live to hear his speeches. Every time Obama talks about the values the USA stands for, I hear echoes of grandpa’s stories.

For the most part, Obama has been a voice for hope, understanding, freedom, and the betterment of society and the middle class. For all the shortcomings of his presidency, I expect History to treat him well. He rekindled my affinity with what, I want to believe, America stands for.

It should matter to you too

In a time where there is a refugee crisis in Europe, do you think the rhetoric of building Walls is somehow contained within a Trump rally?

The values a society holds are not sealed within its borders.

America is not only electing POTUS, they’re electing a World Leader. Consider the damage he already did to the collective Zeitgeist during this electoral campaign.

We’ve somehow adapted to the new normal where it is OK to have a proven bully in the race for President: a men who spouts racism and bigotry and has possibly sexually assaulted women. Veiled hints at violence and racism are now normal.

We’re having serious discussions on TV on wether it is effective to stigmatize a whole religion by associating it with Terrorism. Or if torture is effective.

The challenges we face are global: climate change, the refugee crisis, sustainability of social welfare with aging populations, economical sustainability, terrorism. More than ever we need concerted efforts, negotiation and understanding amongst nations.

If we want less Brexit, less Pegida, less Le Pen, less AFD… we need a political class worldwide that inspires people to come together around the idea of a better future. Trump is not the man for that job.

That’s why I give a fuck about this election, and so should you.