The Netherlands is really really great…

“Make America first, but Netherlands second,” that’s what comedian and social commentator, Arjen Lubach preached to millions this week on his show Zondag met Lubach. In spite of the disturbing news coming out of the United States from accredited sources such as Washington Post, NPR, and BBC, the internet still managed to laugh at the ridiculousness of the superlatives “AMAZING” and “SO GREAT.”

It was what we needed. It was what I needed.

As my friends tagged me in posts and sent messages with this viral video, placing Netherlands second in the eye of the Internet, I breathed a shaky sigh of relief that I was living in the Netherlands. And then after that sigh, I was disturbed that the solution to my problem (of disagreeing with this presidency) was living abroad.

After having some time to ruminate over this week’s events and not totally giving in to my initial outcry, I’m left with the inclination to stand my ground rather than run away behind the comforting shroud of the Netherlands.

Living abroad during a Trump presidency

It’s a bit funny because as an international, I have already lost some connection to my home country. That comes with everyone who moves abroad because our bubble widens as does our outward-facing-in perspective. But when Trump was sworn into office and began enacting executive orders that are contrary to my belief system, that lack of connection deepened and I suddenly felt homeless. The word ‘expat’ becoming less married to the notion of ‘temporary stay.’

It may be a dramatic response but I’m at the point where the next 4-5 years can shape my next 30 or 40. I’m looking at <lowers voice into a whisper> settling down <takes a deep breath and raises voice to a normal tone again>. I’m therefore examining what kind of country I and my future family want to grow into. I need a country that I feel is aligned with my moral code and this past week, I’ve been questioning whether America is that country.

Again, dramatic… and understandable.

It’s also difficult to see past my new bubble – a very European-focused bubble that seems to forget the power and resilience of the majority of Americans. Marching on Washington to enact civil rights and then years later for women’s rights, rallying and winning the right to marry whomever they love, and most recently, creating rogue Twitter accounts to ensure their voices will not be silenced.

When I think about these moments, I have hope that the American people will get the change in government they requested but not the change they voted for. There is no sugarcoating this administration’s destructive agenda, but the good news is that it’s out in the open and not behind closed doors and it’s forcing all of us to take a deep look at the facts and make decisions on how we want to live our lives.

Doing something while abroad

While I am not there and I cannot personally participate in organized marches or attend city council meetings and the like, I can do a few things that can placate my mind and/or contribute to my home country.

  1. Talk to my family. I haven’t done this in a constructive way yet because I get easily frustrated, but family can be a great support system and remind us of who we are and what we are connected to. It also helps ground us even if it doesn’t expand our bubble.
  2. Find my cause. My cause is climate change. Anything that is threatening the dissemination of knowledge on climate change is what I will continue to fight against. I work in marketing for impact investing and my job is to educate about investing in renewable energy, sustainable consumption, fair trade, and divesting from fossil fuels. Lack of knowledge about the facts behind climate change threatens my job most directly and the future of my family (most indirectly). Therefore, I will devote myself to this cause and while I care about many other things, I can create the most impact by the dedication to one issue.
  3. Write. Alexander Hamilton wrote like he “was running out of time” and managed to accomplish more than an average person in a shortened lifespan. I don’t know how to harness this yet or in what form it will take but it will be linked to ‘my cause.’ My issue at the moment is to try and distance myself from being a ‘wolf-crier’ and to conduct my own fact-finding mission before I write anything.

Lasting thoughts from abroad

We are in for a very bumpy ride in the coming four years and it’s not only in the United States. There are elections this year in France, in Netherlands, and in Germany and the aftermath of Brexit is also uncertain. The status quo is no longer there for Europe and for the United States. So there’s no point to hiding in another country and hoping the problem will go away or the opposite, hiding in another country and crying that there’s nothing that can be done.

Let’s not forsake – keep up the momentum – and even from abroad, fight for our causes and fight to change.

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