In March, I moved to the United States and started my new position as a researcher at the University of Michigan. I accepted this offer when I still had the certain belief that Hillary Clinton would be elected president. Yet, I believed wrong — like so many others. Though I highly respect the vote of the Electoral College, on the morning of Nov. 9, I woke up overwhelmingly shocked and, in fact, scared by the election of Donald Trump as the next president of the United States. When I checked my phone, a friend of mine had texted me: “Now are you already looking forward to the purge?”
In her concession speech, Hillary Clinton said, “We owe (Donald Trump) an open mind and a chance to lead.” This might or might not be true, and in my opinion, when respecting democratic standards, there is no other option but to give him that chance. Particularly, as a non-American I feel I am not in the position to say or demand otherwise. Also, I think I am not in the position to criticize or judge Trump’s ideas and actions concerning internal U.S. politics. But there are two things in particular that give me collywobbles when I think about the new president of the United States.
On Jan. 20, a person who literally said, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive” took office. During the presidential race, Trump promised anything but fighting climate change or progress toward clean energy in the United States. This has been underpinned by his first actions as president, and if he continues to implement what he promised, it will not only concern U.S. citizens — especially those who would become victims of fracking — but have a severe impact on the whole world.
This is a deeply frightening reality. I have heard people say things like “We just have to survive those four years and everything will be back to normal again.” But the sad truth is that a lot can be damaged in just four years. Already now, it will require a tremendous, collaborative effort to keep the planet from rising two degrees Celsius above the “pre-industrial” global temperature. But if the United States really quit the Paris climate agreement, that goal could be buried for good. This would be a disaster of global scale and the mere thought that it could actually happen is scaring me.
Second, in a foreign policy briefing — i.e., not in a speech before his supporters — Donald Trump reportedly asked, “If we have (nuclear weapons), why can’t we use them?” Now, if this does not worry you, I do not know what would. When looking at his well-documented lack of knowledge regarding foreign affairs and how thin-skinned he can be when confronting criticism, I find it not exaggerated that before Election Day, Barack Obama said: “In the last two days, (his campaign team) had so little confidence in his self-control, they said, ‘We’re just going to take away your Twitter.’ Now, if somebody can’t handle a Twitter account, they can’t handle the nuclear codes.”
To be fair, the more experienced people that were chosen for Trump’s cabinet give me hope that they will have a moderating influence, especially in terms of foreign policy. But nonetheless, Donald Trump carrying around the launch codes for the United States’s nuclear weapons is a serious matter that concerns the whole world.
For some people in Europe, it now seems pretty convenient to blame the “stupid Americans.” But it is not that easy. And it is not about the United States, and not about Trump alone. On the one hand, as Michael Moore put it: “THE MAJORITY of our fellow Americans preferred Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. Period. Fact.” This disproves the “stupid Americans” argument and is a sign of hope for everyone disapproving of Donald Trump’s views. On the other hand, the “movement” that helped Trump become president is happening in Europe as well. (Anyone heard of the Alternative für Deutschland party in Germany?) Hence, it is not an exclusively American phenomenon.
What I ultimately learned from the rise of Donald Trump is that voting alone is not enough anymore. Voting does not require you to create your own ideas, you just decide for or against the ideas of others. It is now more important than ever to actively participate in the political process and commit oneself to leaving a better world and a healthy planet behind. Therefore, just like Trump has an agenda for his first 100 days in office, I have an agenda for my first 100 days in Michigan. And one of my first to-dos is to contact the Democratic Party in Ann Arbor and ask what I can do to help them.
The writer’s name has been withheld for personal security reasons.