Long time no see, how have you been? That's a rhetorical question, of course, because I know things are pretty shitty right now. How do I know? Well, because I have access to the Internet, so I see every last bit of soul crushing news that you can fit on a Facebook timeline or a Foreign Policy article. Mass shootings seem to be a weekly event, cops can't seem to stop killing unarmed people of color, and, in case you haven't noticed, the leading candidate for president from one of our two political parties is an openly racist, misogynistic megalomaniac that looks like a condom full of orange juice.
I tried to make an important point there; we only have TWO PARTIES. This guy isn't vying to represent some tiny, ultra-right wing party in a Bulgarian parliamentary election, he is trying to represent half of the party system of the ENTIRE UNITED STATES.
You know, all this wouldn't be so hard to bear, seeing as I don't live in the U.S. except for one month a year, but, as it turns out, much of the world has access to the same Internet that I mentioned earlier. You know what that means? It means they get to read the same stream of embarrassing, saddening shit that I do. It also means that, as an American, I inevitably have to answer for the all the insane things my country produces.
In the past, I would run into the occasional anti-American classmate or stranger at a bar (usually European, go figure). They would greet my nationality as an invitation to take me (remember, to them, I am "America", not "an American") to task on whatever facet of America they most despised. Usually, it revolved around US foreign policy, or the fact that we are fat, or the fact that we produce a constant stream of mediocre media.
Much to their surprise, I do not rip off my shirt to reveal the bald eagle tattooed on my chest, while simultaneously punching them in the face and screaming our national anthem. Instead, I calmly reply that, on the whole, I agree with them. America is not the shining beacon of light that many believe it to be. It is flawed in ways that, as a non-American, they will never understand like Americans do, much the way I will never understand China the way Chinese people do. Then we go on to discuss how things might be improved. I once spent an hour describing the inherent racism of America's justice system to a Sudanese guy, an Afghan guy and a Vietnamese guy. I am not sure how to feel about the fact that I have been told on more than one occasion that I am "not like other Americans". The implicit meaning being that "other Americans" are loud, ignorant and arrogant.
Thing is though, that interaction is changing in both frequency and tone. I am getting less "Oh, America is great!" or "I would love to go there some day!" and more "Why do you guys keep shooting each other?", or "Did you here that horrible thing (insert Republican presidential candidate name here) said about (Muslims, minorities, women, etc.)?".
My point is, some time in the last year, America's image in my neck of the woods started to go down the toilet. Don't get me wrong, we are still the stuff of dreams for many of my classmates. I live in a dorm with people from more than 90 countries, and many of them would love to live in America. But every time they here about another black man being shot by white cops, or a politician suggesting we round up Muslims, America loses a little bit of its shine. Sure, Donald will eventually crash and burn, but the damage has already been done.
I work tirelessly to represent my country in a positive way. I am as polite and well-spoken as I can muster, because I know that for many of these people, I am the only American they know. That is a small burden, but it seems to be getting heavier and heavier with every passing year.
So, America, please, for the sake of people those of us who aren't home to take care it ourselves, get your shit together.