4,982 miles away, abroad in another country, and I still feel the urgency of the 2016 American election every single day. At times, it's really challenging to act as an unofficial spokesperson for the United States when this election has so frequently left me feeling alien from my country. I can't understand, let alone empathize with, a lot of the views that have been expressed over the past 6 months. Though it's not in my nature, I admit that I've felt anger, pessimism, disgust, vitriol, and dislike bubble up inside me when I hear remarks that are so incongruent with my values, and so antithetical to what I believe is decent and right.
Being a foreigner abroad, however, has also been a saving grace - a forceful reminder of how to explore difference. Here, I don't find it as difficult to listen with the intent of learning rather than lecturing. Here, I don't find it as difficult to build bridges where there seem to be only ideological chasms. And above all, here, I don't find it as difficult to begin each interaction endeavoring to find the good in the other person, and understand their story.
For damn sure I want Hillary Clinton to win, and that's where I put my vote. But a victory for me will also look like more Republicans and Democrats (myself included!) having more conversations like I've had with people in Côte d'Ivoire. Not because it's always easy, not because it's necessarily fun, but because it's dangerous to let difference (perceived or otherwise) define our capacity to connect as human beings.
It seems that living abroad has been a critical reminder of how to have difficult conversations at home.
Until Next Time,