Election Week: An American in Ghana

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Looking at the our world, it’s difficult to find the words to express my anxiety of what is to come. The world is getting hotter and hotter by the second, and it’s not just because of global warming. A brief scan of the news reveals: shameless racism and white supremacy; (violent) discrimination against people of color; a hopeless Syrian genocide; havoc wreaked by terrorists everywhere; a migration crisis in the EU; a global increase in nationalist and isolationist sentiments;  and of course, US election coverage. Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump — a former lawyer, First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State against a narcissistic billionaire megalomaniac. Disclaimer: This blog post is political. However, this blog post is not to offer any intellectual analysis of the election or lecture about the sad state of American politics, but instead to describe what many of my peers and I feel now that Donald Trump is our President-elect.

This election season has been mentally and emotionally draining, to say the least. From the beginning, I have been a Bernie Sanders supporter. His steadfast honesty and revolutionary grassroots movement empowered millions of disenfranchised Americans. To see someone like Senator Sanders, a seasoned politician, be so progressive, relatable, and down-to-earth was a refreshing change from the conservative elitism and corporate sway that pervades American government. Many Americans were thus understandably disenchanted by the DNC’s corruption and unsatisfying primary results. Between Hillary Clinton (a more than qualified, but status quo candidate) and Donald Trump (KKK-approved and highly inexperienced), my hope for the election was already gone. Nevertheless, I had sent in my absentee ballot, voting for Clinton.

This Tuesday, my roommate and I watched the election results unfold with as much hope as we could. We woke up at 3am to go to an Election Night Watch Party at the Impact Hub (a co-working space in Osu). When we entered the space, there was a post-apocalyptic feel to the room. It was dark and quiet with a bright projector showing election coverage. Mostly expats, but a few Ghanaians had started the party the night before. A lot of people in the room were asleep on thin foam mattresses with blankets strewn about. A few were still joking around and making predictions about what would happen to Florida or Michigan. As the numbers got closer and closer, Trump eventually came out ahead in the electoral votes. A dead silence filled the room as all eyes questioned the reality unfolding on the screen. Nearly all the results were in, but votes were still being counted. This couldn’t be happening, right?

Driving back to the university in an Uber, we felt shocked when finally hearing Trump’s acceptance speech on the radio. What is to come of this short-tempered, erratic, xenophobic, racist, misogynistic candidate? To make sense of his win, it’s understandable that poor white middle class citizens (who seem to make up a majority of Trump’s supporters) are fed up with our changing world, our diversified America. With nativist sentiments, they want to return to a “greater” America that benefitted white citizens at the expense of systemically discriminating minority populations. I tried to make sense of his win by trying to put myself into the shoes of the Trump supporters who feel disenfranchised and scared. With higher death rates in lower-income communities and higher life expectancy among higher class, it’s clear for the average Trump supporter to feel like a victim to globalization and progressive politics. This is how a fringe candidate used fear and hatred to win.

Being abroad this election season was frustrating. Ghana may be geographically far away from the US, but election news and especially local Ghanaians make it difficult to forget our reality. It’s even more infuriating when my Ghanaian classmates bring it up. Many of them think of the US elections as a joke because of Trump’s outrageousness. Every so often there’s a Ghanaian who asks me if I support Trump. Four out of five times, I’ll discover that they prefer Trump over Hillary because ….he’s “honest”. Maybe they’re ignorant about American politics, or maybe they have a different worldview influenced by Africa’s own turbulent political history. Either way, it’s been strange to think that Trump being our President-elect now represents the faces of Americans abroad. Trump — the perfect American stereotype of rich, rude, self-centered, and white/orange. Even after the election results, several Ghanaians have asked what we think about our new president, poking fun at our bleak state of affairs. This blog post may seem dramatic, but I am simply in shock. Although I’ve often been in another world while in Ghana, the hard truth has been that our world is interconnected and we can never escape reality.