I should have written this post a long time ago. Over a year ago. I actually have my notes on it from when I was traveling around New Zealand.
And then I should have written about it again after being in Costa Rica this past August.
And then after the presidential election in November.
You know that quick elevator pitch you always do when you meet new friends while traveling? It goes something like where you’re from, how long you’re staying in the current area, how long you’re traveling for, where you’re going next, etc. When I was traveling in New Zealand, without fail, just about every time I said I was from the United States, somebody would make a joking comment about Trump and I would either laugh or roll my eyes and say how embarrassing it was that he was running for president, and try to clear the air that most Americans didn’t support him. We weren’t that stupid, I would say. When they show statistics on the news about what percent of Americans support which candidate, they weren’t polling everybody, I would say, I didn’t even know where they got those numbers from.
Fast forward eight months, and I’m traveling around Costa Rica on my own. Going through that same elevator pitch to new friends and hostel roommates, I never once got a comment about Trump or American politics. No questions about our government, no comments about the upcoming election, not one thing. It was a little over a month after the Brexit vote, and things were weird. People were actually nervous about what was shaping out around the world, and the US was one of the next big focuses internationally. Everyone was watching, but nobody was talking about it.
I know we are only one country among almost 200, but the stark differences between the then and now conversations was jarring. It could have just been that the types of people I met in Costa Rica just weren’t as interested in that stuff as the ones I met in New Zealand. It could have been that I only got to know people for a day or two in Costa Rica, where many people I conversed with in New Zealand I had traveled with for longer. It could have been any other factor or reasoning that didn’t bring politics up in the communities I passed through while backpacking there. But I honestly think that it was fear, that it wasn’t something to lightheartedly roll your eyes at and joke about anymore, that this could actually be real. Somebody was actually building a following off of these false prejudices and scapegoats, and it was a much bigger following than I expected.
I will never understand it.
To everybody that I have met in my travels, no matter what your background is, know that you are welcome here by the vast majority of American people. Know that we oppose the racism and the prejudices that the news is currently broadcasting about the US. Know that right now, there are thousands of people fighting for what’s right. The amount of activism that I have seen pick up in my community over the past few months has been incredible. People are outwardly taking a positive stance on inclusivity, diversity and equal rights for all. People are coming together under these divisive times.
This land is your land, this land is my land. I hope that view is taken worldwide one day.