Apologizing for Donald Trump in Delhi

The World is Watching, and Our Ugliness is Showing

In my role as an admissions administrator for an American university, I spend ten days each spring traveling internationally meeting with prospective students and their families. As they determine if my college is a good fit for them, understandably there are many things they wish to discuss. In a packed room in Delhi, India, an earnest young man in his early twenties peppered me with questions on behalf of his sister.

“How safe is it for a young woman coming from India to study at your college?”

“Are internships as available for international students as they are for American ones?”

Then he stopped for a moment, lowered his voice and leaned in closer to me.

“I have to be honest with you…”

He paused, looked at me with an expression of discomfort mixed with bewilderment clearly searching for a way to complete his sentence. Instead, he uttered one word.

“Trump.”

“I think, you know, the world looks to America…and, well…,” he continued, his sentence trailing off.

There were so many ways I could have finished the thought for him. Why would America even consider electing a bigoted huckster to lead the “greatest nation on earth?” Have you noticed that he says horrible things, then denies having said them even though they are recorded, and your media lets him get away with it? Or, perhaps more simply — do you think, m’aam, that this is a temporary situation, or has America permanently lost its mind?

In the abstract I knew that the world has been watching, and presumably they are horrified by the spectacle that has been the Republican primary campaign. Standing in front of me, however, was the reality — a young man from across the globe sharing with me the same concerns that I have for my country. He was wisely having doubts about sending his sister to a place that might have Donald Trump for a President

I fought back the overwhelming urge to apologize to him on behalf of America for our ugliness, xenophobia and arrogance, as we talked a bit more about American politics, the primary process, and his fondness for Bernie Sanders. Before excusing himself, he said matter of factly, “We are afraid of what will happen if Donald Trump becomes President.”

Later that night as I replayed this conversation in my head, I wondered who exactly was the “we” to whom he was referring.

Was he saying that his family was afraid? His city? His country? The world?

In the end, it really doesn’t matter what he meant. President Trump-builder of walls, promoter of religious and cultural intolerance, and climate change denier is a disaster for us all.