I have never been apologetic with regards to my political views, and frankly I was kind of disappointed that I would be leaving the United States for the first six months of the Trump administration. It has already been a decidedly unique period in American politics; never before have we seen so many people stand up and stiff-arm their way through the U.S. legislative process, and it’s exciting to see people that are just beginning to stand up for what they believe in. And it’s for that reason that I was a little disappointed to scamper 3,500 miles away almost immediately after President Trump was inaugurated—I wish I could be there to do my part.
At the same time, I don’t think that I’ve managed to escape the political landscape of the U.S. while I’m abroad. When people find out that I’m American, practically the first thing that anyone brings up is the Trump administration and the recent legislation that has been passed. It’s actually fairly remarkable; while talking politics might be taboo in the U.S, it’s arguably the most accessible topic of conversation that I’ve experienced here. I thought I might have been frustrated by all the political jargon, but frankly I’m just surprised; the people I’ve met in Maastricht have been shockingly knowledgeable when it comes to American affairs, and they’re remarkably invested.
I suppose that makes sense; with the United States being as powerful and global as it is, people around the world have to consider how our policies will impact them. And, if you’ll allow me to be frank, a lot of the people that I’ve spoken to have thought the current administration is kind of hilarious. No one in Europe expected Trump to win the Electoral College, and it seems like the general sentiment is that the election result is funny. I mean, it’s to be expected that I would be a little more grim with respect to American politics, but I won’t deny that it was a bit of a culture shock to see how lightly it was all taken here.
Even more odd is that the same isolationist, nationalist attitudes seem to be mirroring themselves throughout Europe, and everyone seems to be acutely aware of it. With the recent passing of Brexit and the rise of nationalist parties in Poland and France, it’s slightly alarming to see how the political landscape here mimics that in the United States. From what I’ve seen, people worldwide are opting to close themselves off and focus on the home-grown aspects of their living standard.
Anyway, I just thought it was remarkable to see how much people knew about American politics, and just how much influence the U.S. has over global politics. It’s important to understand that the way we present ourselves as Americans has implications that reach far outside of our country’s borders, and that the world has its eyes on and its fingers in every bit of our business.