Donnerstag, 16. Juni 2016

One foot in one land and another on a banana peel

I've been a resident alien in Zürich for 9 years, but it's the 10th anniversary of my moving here this month. This autumn, I can get my C-permit (touch wood) and then begin the naturalization process. I can speak in dialect, I know that I'm meant to hate taking antibiotics and I make all the right sounds of excitement and disappointment while watching the football. You can tell that I'm a proper American Ex-pat, because my English is annoyingly influenced by all the GB Ex-pats around me. But I'll get to that.
The heartbreak over the hate crime in the US last week was felt across the world and it's timing with Zürich Pride seemed to make it more present than it might have been. But I'm only an LGBT ally and I'm not in the States and I'm acutely aware of how different the mourning here is for me.
But today was an online meeting for volunteers for Voters Abroad and I am feeling inspired. On the meeting, the "cheers" and "cheerios" and whatnot made me cringe, when I recognized that we're all susceptible to the English we most often hear influencing our native tongue.
But I'm doing something. I'm involved. And it's giving me strength. Because I'm becoming the neighborhood grumpus. People here seem to think that I might have insight or hope on the subject of the US presidential election, which I do not. As I was leaving my building a couple weeks ago and was in a stressful situation; I'd just discovered that I had an issue that needed to be handled with antibiotics, so of course I was upset. Just then, in my state of stress, with my stinky dog needing to relieve herself, a different neighborhood grumpus approached me with her newly abbreviated greeting of, "So, der Trumpf, gäll?" As the american kids say, I just couldn't. I responded automatically and shortly and embarrassingly with "I don't know! I can't do this now! Leave me alone!" I felt just awful about it (and apologized to her later), but it was a tipping point. I know that I shouldn't have let my pain and fear and painful fear of American politics let me treat a neighbor poorly. But I truly don't know what to say to Swiss people when they want to know my opinions on American politics. I'm clueless. I'm informed as an outsider. I'm missing the context. It's like before the elections in 2008, when European media painted the US as a country saturated with guns and hate and ignorance. Palin was all over everything and I had no context to frame it in. But a visit to the States that summer made me see it very differently.
I feel contextless. But I am an American abroad, with the privilege and  obligation to vote and I'm getting excited to help others more easily do that as well; to give ourselves our own context. What has become the joking "Was meinst du zu den Trump?" has become a more frightened plea for my offer that my motherland will not unleash a reality tv star on the world. Because I'm an American in the context of a continent that was nearly destroyed by hate and north of a country that was more recently negatively effected by the leadership of a reality TV star and failed business man. 

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