International Travel While Trump Is In Office

I’m sitting in the basement of our hotel in London a block from Paddington Station, since that’s where we leave from tomorrow. Teresa had scheduled us to arrive back here and have a full day between adventures before we had to get back on the airplane for the long flights home. I appreciate the break, and as much as I’d like to spend all day working, I feel like it’s best if I just do nothing. I might venture out in search of fresh vegetables, since those have been pretty lacking in this trip (mostly because of my own choosing).

One thing I’ve been worried about (not worried enough not to travel, but still…) was how people will react to us as Americans now that we have a hateful jerk as the most prominent political figure in our country.

Our encounter with an angry British man

We haven’t had much interaction with people on a social level, but as I purchased Noam Chomsky’s Optimism Over Despair from a lovely little bookstore on a canal here in London, a very drunk man wearing ski goggles and braids came over and started excitedly talking with us about how he doesn’t understand the political system of the United States, but our president is truly awful.

Except he didn’t say it in an angry way. He said it in an outstandingly British, angular way about how we might not like him, but after all, we did elect him, and [here’s where I tried to interject and explain our electoral system and that he didn’t win the popular vote, just the blah blah blah, but the guy wasn’t listening at all]. He also said he was sure that our system had “checks and balances and all that,” and when I started trying to explain the Supreme Court and Congress also being Republicans, he went back to talking about how he wasn’t quite sure how we could have elected Trump after our previous president was so great (that’d be Obama [chorus of angels]). So then I got onto yet a third tangent about how Obama didn’t really represent a lot of the rural Southern voters, and that Trump promised to represent them better, so they rallied and now…

But I could tell he wasn’t listening.

He just wanted to poke at us about our elected official.

And also, he was very, very drunk.

We eventually extricated ourselves from that conversation (with some effort)

“I think most people around the world are familiar with the feeling of not being represented by their government,” my mom said when I asked her if she was worried about traveling to Kenya last year.

And yes, that’s probably true in developing countries, but in democratic countries like the UK and France, I wonder if maybe people assume we support our democratically elected president, without understanding the nuances of the electoral college and how a president has won the popular vote but lost the election not once, but twice, and how this didn’t immediately spark a revolution.

I wonder, too.

But revolutions are complicated things, and most of us still have faith – however misplaced – in our democratic processes.

As we discussed the drunk man and his ideas about Trump, Teresa and I came to the conclusion that the best we could do is keep traveling and keep talking to people, and let our friendliness and personalities open the door for a better international understanding of what’s happening in the US.