I have been sharing student blogs for several years, and post the ones that students vote as the best of their peers. But I was touched by several of the final blogs this semester from my course, National Agenda, As We Stand | Divided. These thoughtful and personal perspectives give me hope that we can all learn to see the humanity in others. You can read Part 1 here. Part 2 comes from Bailey Allen, a Junior at the University of Delaware majoring in Communication with a minor in Political Communication. Here, she describes what it means to talk to people in other countries since the 2016 Presidential Election, and encourages readers to view this as an opportunity to show patriotism and American values.
As if Americans don’t already face the “stupid, lazy American” stereotype that we assume Europeans have about us, we now have a very real new challenge to face while traveling abroad.
“Trumpsplaining” has been used to explain many things that Americans have been dealing with since the 2016 Presidential election. Some define it as someone explaining why they voted for Trump. Some use the term to explain the act of trying to translate what Trump actually meant to say in his tweets and interviews, as opposed to what he literally said. But I have also seen it used to describe a situation I have personally been involved in, and this is the definition that resonates the most with me.
This definition of Trumpslpaining is when an American is in a foreign country and is asked about President Trump. The inquiring person usually wants to know what we think about his bizarre behavior, how he was able to get elected in our government system, and why people voted for him. The American is then forced to try to avoid a potentially volatile situation, or attempt to answer the curious person’s question.
I was in Paris in November 2016 after Trump won the election, and was asked multiple times by Parisians about our then President-Elect. I usually just gave short, broad answers and generally avoided the conversation, knowing that the French really admired President Obama and are critical of President Trump.
More recently, my mom got back from a business trip to Mexico City, and found herself in many situations where she was the butt of a joke for being American and Trump being our president. My mom took an alternative route and actually began apologizing to her Mexican co-workers and reassuring them that not everyone in the United States is in support of “The Wall,” and that many are very opposed to the President’s rhetoric and actions.
In my opinion, both types of responses are reasonable and justified for non-Trump supporters. But now I’m wondering about a third option as I get ready to study abroad in London this winter. If I am asked about our President, I cannot speak for Trump supporters, but I can try to put myself in their shoes and understand why they voted for him. I won’t defend Trump, but I can give answers that explain his appeal to many voters.
Part of me thinks “why should I do that?” but the other part of me thinks about my National Agenda speaker series and the lessons we learned in that class. If I want people to respect my opinions, it starts with me respecting theirs. And if we want people from other countries to understand our current political climate, we have to be honest with them about all the different opinions Americans have. I don’t have to agree with everyone, but I think I owe it to my country and my fellow citizens to defend their right to an opinion. It would be much easier to stay comfortably in my moral matrix, as described by psychologist Jonathan Haidt, and take criticism of Trump as confirmation of the grand narrative of my political party. But I think in the long run it is the more patriotic thing to do, to simply explain where our fellow Americans are coming from in their decision to vote for Trump, rather than take the opportunity to throw them under the bus for opinions we don’t agree with.
“Trumpsplaining” has a negative connotation because it is attached to the idea that we have major differences between political parties and that other countries don’t necessarily trust or even understand our leadership right now. But I think we could look at “Trumpsplaining” as an opportunity to learn more about the opposing point of view. While this does not mean we have to adopt opposing ideas, a simple thing like defending our fellow Americans in their right to an opinion can show the rest of the world that this political discord is not going to ruin our patriotism and respect for fellow Americans.
This blog was written for a class by Bailey Allen, a Junior studying Communication at the University of Delaware.