I woke up this morning, grabbed my coffee, checked out the chicks in the incubator (great hatch, vry excited), sat down at my computer, and checked my Facebook notifications. You know, the usual.
There’s been a lot of political discussion on my wall lately. As I’m sure many of you can guess, I’m utterly devastated (though actually not surprised) that Trump won the US Presidential Election. I was a little less shocked by this than some Americans. One of my main news sources (out of many) is The Young Turks, and Cenk Uygur is eerily close in his predictions. He was one of the only pundits I saw who quite cleanly called this election – from the map of the delegates to the reactions of the people afterward. How often he’s right is why I follow The Young Turks so closely – despite some of Cenk’s trashcan opinions (on social issues, particularly involving feminism) he’s great on politics. I’m not really even worried about his lagging stance on some of the social issues. He’s a recovering conservative Republican come progressive Democrat. He’s a man who has demonstrated a willingness to change his opinions over time and his ability to evolve. He’ll get there.
But his coverage of the 2016 election left me a little less stunned than most of my friends on the night of the election. I was depressed, sure, but I’d already had at least a week to expect this. I’d already gotten over part of the grieving process. I wasn’t “Let’s get all the canned goods and hide in our bunker.” scared. Mostly, I was terrified for the environment. We’re standing on a cliff with climate change where we do something right the Hell now or face a possible extinction event within our lifetime – and we just elected someone actively TRYING to shove us off the edge.
Despite not living in the United States, I have a very vested interest in the US political process and have been reading about the election – as well as writing about it, a lot. Usually eloquently. Sometimes loudly and angrily.
For my part – I voted in October with an absentee ballot for Hillary. I posted a photo of my ballot to Facebook (I’m aware of the legal gray area here, I don’t fucking care) urging my friends to vote. Now I just want to go over part of that again.
I voted for Hillary.
Those words don’t come out of my mouth with pride. They come out of my mouth dripping with disappointment and apprehension – but they were words I could stomach coming out of my mouth at all. Voting for Trump was never on the table. Every single policy of his flew directly in the face of my values.
I knew how our electoral system worked. I knew that I really only had two choices despite people urging me to vote for third-party candidates or not to vote at all if I didn’t like the choices. Decisions like those are the ones which got us Trump. Not the third-party voters, per se – more the people who didn’t want to decide at all. As I put to them, “If you don’t vote, or you vote for a third party, you will be voting for Trump by abstention.”
And they did.
I knew that Hillary wasn’t the choice for me. I was a solid Bernie girl – the first political candidate I almost COMPLETELY agreed with. Ever. EVER. That was amazing. And he was inspiring and fierce and I fully supported him.
Hillary was just the bitter pill I knew I had to swallow to help prevent the terminal illness of Trump.
I wasn’t always a proud voter. I missed the 2000 election because I was too young. I moved from the United States to Australia in 2003 not to AVOID Bush per se, but I had a choice in which country my husband and I lived in and Bush heavily swayed that choice. I didn’t want to live in a country he presided over – and the economy and wages looked like they were tanking (and they did). I jumped ship like a drowning rat for what I considered (and still consider) logical reasons.
At that age – I only had a minimal interest in politics. I saw myself as incapable of having a true voice, I saw the United States as beyond any redemption. I was actively ashamed at all times to even be American but at a loss for what to do about it. I had no other citizenship and being a citizen of nowhere is an extremely unideal situation to be in. Mostly, I shut down and didn’t participate in political discussion.
When the 2004 election came around I didn’t vote. I thought Kerry was a sorry excuse for a candidate and wasn’t willing to vote for “the lesser of two evils”. I didn’t think that my vote made any difference – since Oregon is a solidly blue state. This is the idea of a lot of people in swing states this year – who thought that surely their state would go blue – and which went gloriously, glaringly red by the end.
By 2008 I’d started to become politically active. I’d started to regain some pride in my country and I began to understand that it’s completely okay to be extremely disappointed in your country. I began to adopt a new attitude toward my country. “Okay so we’re broken. Let’s fix things.”. I knew that America had a potential for greatness – it had shown it during a few points in history in fits and starts (when it wasn’t busy shitting all over minorities). I knew that if enough people spoke up and became politically active we could take back our country and turn it into something we could be genuinely proud of. I began voting in earnest.
Being an expat voter can get a little interesting.
For a start, depending on the state you came from, how you vote varies quite whimsically. In some US states people can’t vote in their own neighbourhoods without photo ID while I vote by fucking email. That makes my brain do a portal loop until it overheats and I have to reboot. It’s absurd. I could have voted by email but for some reason I chose to vote by post. I couldn’t explain it now, but it made sense at the time. Anyway, I voted. For Hillary (she says, fighting back the bile).
You will immediately find, as a vocal expat voter, that a lot of people get really fucking mad that you still have a say in US politics even though you don’t live there. Some of them yell at you. Some of them express shock. Some of them actually try to reason with you about why you should just shut your mouth now, okay?
I got one of those today – and wanted to talk about it.
This is a friend of mine whose opinions I …mostly respect. I will call her Thelma. Thelma, like a lot of Americans, believes that her opinion = truth. Thelma, like a lot of Americans, thinks that because I moved away, I gave up all rights to America.
Thelma is full of shit.
This is actually pretty typical of the way the whole “you don’t even live here, why are you voting, shut up” argument is presented to me. It’s never, “You don’t live here, you shouldn’t have a right to vote/discuss politics” – it’s always, “You don’t live here so you have no say.”
The problem with it is that it’s just wrong. We can discuss until the cows come home whether or not expat Americans should have a right to vote – but no amount of your opinion (which != truth or fact) will actually strip me of my rights.
In answer to Thelma’s “To what part of American politics do you have a reasonable right now?” I answer, “To every single damned part of it until the day I die.”
In answer to Thelma’s statement of, “A voice requires residency.” I answer, “That’s a nice personal fantasy but it has no basis in reality.” Opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one and a lot of them smell like shit. This opinion, masquerading as truth, smells like shit.
And in answer to Thelma’s statement of, “it IS the truth”. I answer, “Except where it isn’t true in the least.”
I have a vote. I have a voice. My citizenship gives me a right to vote. What gives me the right to speak about US politics is my being a goddamned human being.
Thelma didn’t make me angry – much though she was worried (or excited?) that she would. My reaction was something akin to disgust mixed with embarrassment for her. Why embarrassment? Because if I did something like that, tried to shut someone’s political engagement down, I would be deeply ashamed of myself.
And here’s the thing. This argument of “you don’t even live here, why are you voting, shut up” seems to assume that the United States exists within a vacuum where it lacks the potential to profoundly affect the rest of the world – and it so clearly does not. Indeed, the entire world is shitting itself a bit over Trump’s win because it has the potential to throw many nations into turmoil. Make no mistake – I will absolutely, probably rapidly, see the effects of Trump’s presidency from Australia. As will all of the Australians who did not have a right to vote in the US election.
It isn’t only my right to vote as an expat citizen, it is my duty to vote as an expat citizen and as a resident of a nation which will see the effects of a world leader whose reign they genuinely had no say in. I’m one of the only voices they’ll have.
I will use it.
I will scream from the rooftops if that is what I must do.
I will educate myself and those around me. I will share my opinions. I will speak out against injustice.
Because I am an American. Occasionally even a proud one. And I will vote.
Every time you tell me to be quiet you only feed my voice.