Donald Trump has now been President of the United States for a couple of months.
The entire world (apart, of course, from America’s Republican party and their new BFFs in Russia) can see this guy for what he really is: a tacky boor, a fraud, a xenophobe, an imbecile, a serial liar, a misogynist and a childish conman.
As an American living abroad, I’m already starting to sense the gaze of judgmental eyes focussed upon me every time I open my mouth and reveal I’m from the USA. It’s a familiar experience for many of us expats – it’s something we remember from the George W. Bush years – but now it has been magnified many times over. In fact, it’s such a strong feeling, that I’ve had to coin a name for it:
Trumpbarrassment: 1. NOUN – The state of feeling embarrassed when travelling or living abroad on account of Donald Trump being President of the United States of America
Trumpbarrassment isn’t a political condition – it’s personal. It’s not based on opposition to Mr Trump’s policies – no, that would be too cerebral, too abstract. It’s more like the feeling you would get if your best friend were arrested for stealing money from war orphans. No, it’s worse than that – it strikes even closer to home. It’s more like the way you would feel if a video of your identical twin having sexual relations with a ostrich went viral on YouTube – something so absurd, unexpected and disgusting that you can’t even begin to process it. That’s what it’s like to be Trumpbarrassed.
Naturally, with such a strong negative feeling also comes a desire to disassociate yourself from the object of your embarrassment. You may, if you’re not careful, start to transfer the shame you feel in your country’s leader, into feeling ashamed of your country. But don’t do it. Don’t be Ameribarrassed.
Ameribarrassment: 1. NOUN – The state of feeling shame about being American because of Donald Trump – especially when travelling or living abroad.
2. NOUN – Being a sell-out to your country and its proud legacy in exchange for the short term benefit of clarifying for strangers from other countries, that you didn’t vote for Donald Trump and you don’t support his actions.
I believe that if you can label something that’s troubling you, then you’ve taken the first step towards learning how to understand it and how to cope with it. Knowing the difference between being Trumpbarrassed and Ameribarrassed is the key to knowing that the shame you feel right now is entirely about who is leading America, rather than about being an American.
How can you know the difference between being Trumparrassed and Ameribarrassed? Look out for these warning signs:
- Putting on a local accent, or being overly eager to use local pronunciations of words. If you take on an English accent, despite being from Philadelphia, or you start pronouncing the word schedule with a “sh” rather than a “sk” sound at the beginning – then you are being a poseur.
- Embracing local cultural practices that no foreigner really likes. Have you joined a morris dancing group, in an effort to fit in? Started playing cricket? Learning the bagpipes? You may be over-compensating.
- Personally apologising for Donald Trump’s election. It’s not your fault unless you voted for him.
- Downplaying your American-ness: “Ethnically, my family are Uzbekis, and I’ve lived abroad in Andorra for many years now. I hardly even remember America. I’m more of a citizen of the world.” No, you’re a self-hating poseur.
- Changing your look. If your motive is to dress well, rather than to fit in, you’re okay. I’ve written a blog post with tips on how to act, speak and dress when you’re an American in the UK, so as not to make a prat out of yourself. That advice was written to keep you from looking stupid, not to help you hide your identity as an American. Use it wisely.
- Pretending to be Canadian: Pretending to be Canadian allows you to be the exact same person you are, but without admitting to being an American. It’s an easy cop out, because there’s no obvious difference between Canadians and Americans. But just because something is easy, doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.
As is usually the case in life, the right thing to do is often the difficult thing to do. It may not be easy, but in the age of Trump, you need to embrace your Trumpbarrassment and reject your Ameribarrassment. You need to do this, because your country needs you.
This isn’t the time to sell out, it’s the time to stand up and be counted. If you are an American who is travelling or living abroad, chances are, you are the exact kind of ambassador that the USA needs – to show the rest of the world that we’re not all thin-skinned, right wing, orange megalomaniacs.
As an international traveler – unlike Trump voters – you may have experienced and learned about things beyond the trailer park gates. You’re an expat, so you’re worldly. We need you out there, projecting a positive image of our country, since our President is incapable of doing so.
In the long run, it’ll be worth it, because we Americans can and will survive through the Trump era. We are more than Trump. We are the people who cured polio, landed on the moon, split the atom and invented jazz, rock and roll and hip-hop. We built the first skyscrapers, flew the first airplanes, and assembled the first transistors. We are a country of brave immigrants, bold dreamers and high achievers. We are Muhammad Ali, Andy Warhol, Albert Einstein, Bob Dylan, Rosa Parks, Abraham Lincoln, Amelia Earhart, Jackson Pollock, Margaret Mead, Frank Lloyd Wright, Bruce Lee, Joey Ramone, Noam Chomsky…
..and yes, Donald Trump too. Also Vanilla Ice, Sarah Palin, The Kardashians, Pauly Shore, Adam Sandler and Paris Hilton. We will always have our share of embarrassments, idiots, and losers, who get to be extremely popular and even influential, for a while. But the thing to remember about sell-outs is that their legacies don’t last. They burn bright but soon fade from history and eventually turn into the punch-lines. Today’s sell-out is yesterday’s has-been.
And so it will be with Donald Trump.
Okay, I admit he’s a bigger fraud than Milli Vanilli or Ashlee Simpson. More clueless than Rebecca Black. More tacky than Right Said Fred or MC Hammer’s outfits. And of course, he’s more dangerous than any of them – a risk to American prosperity and world peace. But like those former stars, he’ll soon be forgotten and America’s overall legacy will endure.
Don’t join them all in the dustbin of American history. Don’t sell out.
Stick to your guns, be proud to be American, even when you’re feeling embarrassed of Donald Trump.