Hello, again!

Yeah, what Jason said.

To follow up on my pointless rant from last weekend, one of my first thoughts after the election was called—a few hours after Oh my god, I so wish that my grandma/grandpa/great-godmother/great-grandparents/great-great-grandparents/father, etc. were alive to see this day—was, Now I want a do-over on every trip outside the country that I’ve made in the last eight years.

In June 2000—well before the Patriot Act, the Iraq War, torture, and so many other tragedies perpetrated by the current administration—I went on a business junket to a weeklong international poetry festival in Rotterdam. There were people from all over the world there, and I was—utterly ludicrously—representing the United States in the working group for a cross-cultural Web project. Bush had just been visiting some countries in western Europe, and he’d already managed to make a spectacular ass of himself. So for that entire week, I found myself being warily/teasingly asked, every time I met somebody new, “So, how about that president of yours?” It was extremely unpleasant, even though I could emphatically exclaim, every time, “I did not vote for him!” Not surprisingly, the two Canadians at the festival were pissed whenever somebody assumed that they were Americans.

Since then, this experience has repeated itself many times, only more seriously, more painfully, as I’ve been lectured or questioned about what the hell is wrong with my country by people from all over. Even here at home in New York, when I was taking a class at the Alliance Française, one day our teacher just went off on how fucked-up and racist the U.S. is. Granted, that person clearly had some notions that she’d preconceived before arriving here and was not in any way seeking to investigate, and she disregarded the diversity and political opinions of the class that was sitting right in front of her—but that experience of not being able to explain, much less defend, what was going on has been a constant drag on what I still flinch to call my patriotism. For the last eight years, whenever I’ve traveled outside the country, when people have asked where I’m from, I’ve said, “New York.” Never “the U.S.,” never “America.” Because those names had come to represent a country where I didn’t feel I lived or belonged.

Now I want to go back to all those places and reintroduce myself. Because I know that wherever I go, even if Obama does nothing for the next four years but eat babies, people will be cordial again.

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