Normal Americans Apologize

A post-election letter to our neighbors around the world

Yesterday, Americans elected as our next president a man with no relevant experience, a history of mediocrity, and a unique gift for lobbing insults, directing blame, and igniting fear.

Before he can take office — before Trump officially represents America’s place in this world we share — I need to tell you that I am sorry. In fact, this morning, while the wound is fresh and our pride is still hung over, I can safely speak for tens of millions of Americans (including some who voted for Trump) and tell you that we are sorry.

Trump is no statesman. He will say ridiculous, close-minded things about your culture, your government, and your way of being. For that, normal Americans apologize.

Trump is no leader. He will mischaracterize your values and manipulate your image to further his own agenda. For that, normal Americans apologize.

Trump is no planner. He will take short-sighted actions that compromise your economy, your future, and our planet. For that, normal Americans apologize.

Trump is no normal American. He is small-minded, narcissistic, racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, and authoritarian. But we aren’t. I promise you, most Americans aren’t. (Millions voted for Trump in spite of, not because of, his American exceptionalism, trusting his party alignment more than his character.) Indeed, normal Americans across the country woke up this morning feeling like foreigners in our own country, wondering how so many of our neighbors could have been so easily swayed by showmanship and fear.

Our media, and our new president, will make it hard for you to see normal Americans for who we really are. Yes, Americans are different: We are arrogant and selfish and loud. We are bossy and close-minded and greedy. We like huge portions of Jell-O and root beer and Wonder Bread.

But we are also just like you: People trying to find a way of being in this world, in spite of the challenges, in spite of uncertainty, in spite of fear. The media can’t portray it, and our president-elect won’t admit it, but most Americans understand that you are a person, just like me. You may live across an imaginary line on the globe — you may even hate what America stands for — but you are a person like me, not merely a nameless shape in the face of the Other. Normal Americans understand that we are, after all, just normal people who live where we live instead of where you live.

So when my new president misbehaves, as he certainly will, I’m sorry. We are sorry. But remember: When Trump misrepresents who you are and disregards what you care about, he also misrepresents who I am and disregards what I care about. He is a vulgar caricature of America’s worst features, not a role model for our children, a template for our leaders, or a spokesman for our values. Some Americans, of course, will disagree with me rather loudly. For that, normal Americans apologize.