After “Are you dating Jake Gyllenhaal yet?” (To which my answer is, “I’m working on it.”), the question I’ve been asked most by my family and friends since moving to the USA in November is, “What’s it like over there? You know, now…”
The best answer I can give is it’s surreal. I feel a bit like I’ve run into a burning building. It’s like going over to your friend’s house and arriving right when they’re in the middle of a heated argument with their spouse. It’s awkward as hell, my timing couldn’t have been worse (seriously – I got here one day before the election), and you’re not really sure if you’re welcome anymore or if you should just leave and go home.
California is predominantly a Democrat state, so I can honestly say I am yet to meet a Trump supporter. At best, they’re cautiously neutral on the topic, but not one person I’ve encountered has been like, “YAYYYYY! TRUMP! He’s that guy who’s making America great again!”
Also, I can practically wave at the Mexican border from my apartment, so there’s that…
Most people are angry, disbelieving, frustrated and scared. The vibe is a bit like a death. Probably the slow, painful death of a nation…
As you may have noticed, this is not my first time at the rodeo. I’ve been to America many, many times before. Now, I understand visiting a country is completely different to actually living in it, but one of the things I loved most about the US – aside from the diversity of its people – was its energy. It was always vibrant, colourful and fun! Then again though, I’d usually just go to Sephora, stock up on makeup, visit Disneyland and then piss off back home to Australia.
Since the election – but more so since the inauguration – the vibe has completely changed. People walk around shell-shocked now. I’ve never seen anything like it.
Trump has brought about so much contention and so many changes in such a short amount of time, most people are so overwhelmed by the situation, they don’t even know where to start. (Hence the many protests, which some people are starting to call disorganised.)
The other night I met a young Iranian man who has been living here for eight months on a green card. He’s studying at university, but he told me he was worried he was going to be deported back to Iran.
“I just have to wait and see what happens now,” he told me, visibly stressed and saddened by the whole situation.
What Mr Trump needs to remember is that we are all more alike than we are different. Most people – no matter what their nationality, race or religion – are good. And they just want to create a better life for themselves and their families. I know that’s what my grandparents were doing when they migrated to Australia in the 1950’s.
I took a DNA test last year and was surprised to discover I was nine percent Middle Eastern. (I’d be interested in seeing Trump’s DNA results… He might even discover there’s some Mexican and Middle Eastern mixed in there.) If my family had never migrated from the Middle East into Greece and then eventually into Australia, would I be banned too?
I obviously have some strong opinions on the whole situation, but I am going to put my journalist hat on and try to remain as objective as possible, mainly because my family is genuinely worried I’ll get deported. Even though last time I checked, freedom of speech was still a thing in America – or has he abolished that, too? I can’t keep up. He’s been moving so ferociously…
I’m not saying America was perfect before Trump came along. Obviously there were and still are many problems. The cracks were already there. But what he’s done is rip them wide open. And instead of working to mend the problems and rebuild the bridges, he’s building walls.