America, From the Outside

Warning, hot political take herein. Proceed at your own risk:

As of 11/5/2016, I remain a coveted "undecided" Coloradan voter. Despite having my ballot in hand for over two weeks now, I still can't decide what I want to do with it, although shredding it and moving back to New Zealand prior to November 8th has crossed my mind on a few occasions... I positively hate Hillary's political ideology and life-long pandering and I positively hate literally every single thing humanly possible about Donald Trump. I don't think Gary Johnson is very smart despite my Libertarian leanings, and Jill Stien's economic policy ideas are a complete joke in my opinion. So, half-jokingly, I'm left to decide between writing in my dad, Mike Rowe, and John Oliver (until I googled it and found out John isn't an actual US citizen and thus, the race narrows...). I very well could vote for a major party candidate, however, I value my personal dignity, conscience, and values far too much for that at this juncture. Thus, my insufferable quandary.

At the end of the day, I am mostly disappointed in our country. Having traveled internationally almost exclusively this past year, I am so proud (for perhaps the first time in my life) to be an American. I met so many people that always said, in broken English, "America #1!", as I humbly smiled believing in my heart that this was only half true. I hope, despite the results of this week's election, that our nation is forced to look at itself in the mirror--and really freaking look--at who we are and what we represent in the broader world. Founded as a small group of immigrants seeking religious and economic independence from an overbearing government, how have we come to this, mirroring that which we fled? Bilaterally, we are a nation divided, finding ourselves at a certain crossroads of an economically ignorant big-government socialist party with debilitating liberal moral policies gridlocked by a bigoted religious high-road party committed to an outdated status quo driven by half-hearted attempts at moral supremacy. Where the hell do we go from here?


If not glaringly obvious, I am grieved at the state of our nation based on this upcoming election. We represent power, wealth, freedom, independence, liberty, democracy, and stability to the world around us. However, in recent years, we have also come to represent fear, bigotry, idolatry, power-hungriness, weakness, and superiority to many other nations sharing this map. Truth is, we are at a crossroads of historical dimensions, and the time is upon us to decide our direction.

Taking stock of the global economy, humanitarian issues, and environmental concerns, the United States of America is doing quite well despite the rhetoric that we must "make America great again." Mainland Europe and the U.K. have regressed in wake of the economic crisis of 2008 and most recently the Brexit, while the incredible influx of refugees has also taken a significant toll on their resources and economic capabilities. South America has been hit by disaster after disaster of the economic, natural, and cultural varieties. Africa continues to be underdeveloped, despite delivering one of the strongest economic developmental and humanitarian improvements in their historical context over the past decade. Asia continues their surge as industrial leaders in the global marketplace, continually pushing the markets further in their favor as a manufacturing powerhouse, despite their pollution of our atmosphere. And, certainly, the Middle East is battling for their cultural identity in wake of intolerable acts of religious and cultural warfare. In light of our World involvement, America has much to give and much to learn from those around us.

This week, we'll go to the polls to collectively decide on a direction for our nation's leadership. Statistically speaking, approximately 50% of us will be disappointed in the results. So here's the deal: Outside of politics, what are you doing to make this the nation you believe it can and should be? What things are we delegating or expecting the government to do for us that we need to instead take personal responsibility for? Are we all living intentionally towards the values and ideas that we individually believe in? How are you making your little piece of America continually greater for those around you?

Personally, I often theorize about how good things could be if the government would do X for the economy, Y for social programs, and Z for foreign policy, imagining that striking the right balance in those three areas would solve so many issues. However, while I do believe the government has a significant role to play in the overall direction of our nation, I still believe that "We, the people, of the United States of America" have the most opportunity to instigate, perpetuate, or demand the changes we want to see. In order for our voices to be significant in this way, we must learn to be civil again, conversing honestly and respectfully, realizing these discussions will lead themselves into tangible action, which will slowly begin to help us realize the culture and vision we lost somewhere along the way.


Frankly, the repatriation process has been very difficult for me this year, largely due to the fact that we had such wonderful conversations about different forms of government and alternative ideas of living with many fellow travelers from around the world, sharing in enriching and eye-opening conversations ranging from policy to religion to history. One of my favorite conversations about these topics came while sitting around a dinner table on a farm in Slovakia, shared by a Dutchman, a Russian, a Japanese, a German, a Slovakian, a Frenchman, and Jaimie and I. We talked well past midnight about World War II and how each of our nation's political ideas and cultures informed their actions in WWII to current day. It was beyond fascinating, and opened our minds to other ways of seeing and interacting with those sharing this planet with us. Returning home, I realized that these same conversations created more divisiveness, tension, and hostility than I anticipated or remembered, and I've found it quite demoralizing that my country has seemingly lost the virtue of mutual respect and decency in conversation about these topics.

The World is looking to America this week, and I hope that regardless of what happens Tuesday, we each may individually look at our values and strive to connect and dialogue with each other in these coming years in more productive and respectful fashion. Our current political situation is a direct reflection of the masses in our country: an angry, dissenting, disconnected, and ignorant population all fighting for the same thing--a great America. Over the next few years, I hope that our culture can rediscover an identity of prosperity, freedom, hospitality, generosity, and upward mobility that it was founded to promote. I believe in "We, the people" far more than our current government, and I hope we may each look at our own life choices and values and find ways to create that America alongside our neighbors. We can and must do better, together, friends. Now, GO VOTE!