HCMC Dining Guide

Friday, November 11, 2016

A National Disgrace

I've been thinking of resuming this blog for some time, as there's been a lot going on in Saigon to write about, but I need to vent first. Watching the events taking place in America over the past week has been utterly embarrassing, disheartening and shameful. I generally try to avoid politics online, but the election of Donald Trump as president (I still can't believe I have to type that) is the lowest I've ever felt as an American. His toxic racism, xenophobia, misogyny, vulgarity, dishonesty and all around boorish behavior is nothing short of pathetic, and now it's all been legitimized by his shocking electoral college victory.

My last post on here was about President Obama's visit to Vietnam. Say what you will about the man's policies, but I challenge anyone to argue that he is not a highly intelligent, thoughtful and charismatic individual, part of a wholesome, scandal-free family that is an image of everything America should strive for. Being an American abroad during his presidency has been great, at least where I've traveled. Obama's decency did well for America's image overseas after the ruinous Bush presidency, and all of that stands to be undone the second Trump takes over the White House (if it hasn't already).

This has been a difficult week for me, and I actually have it pretty easy compared to many. As a white male with a decent income I don't have much to worry about from a Trump presidency, at least not on the micro level. But I'm scared for my friends who aren't white, who aren't straight, and aren't male. I can't even imagine how women must feel right now, to see a flawed but unquestionably qualified and competent woman lose to the raging id of male chauvinism - to now have to call president a man who bragged about "grabbing women by the pussy." I don't understand how any woman could've voted for such a man, but apparently millions did.

I watched the election results start to come in on Wednesday morning at an event held by the American consulate in the very room where Obama charmed hundreds of young Vietnamese earlier in the year. The mood early in the morning was upbeat - I, along with literally everyone I know here, fully expected Clinton to prevail, expected the long nightmare of Trump's presence on the national stand to finally come to the thorough defeat he so deserved. The event was catered by Starbucks, McDonald's and Dunkin' Donuts - rarely have I felt more American than while eating an Egg McMuffin with a Starbucks iced coffee. A virtual poll of attendees showed that 75% favored Clinton, while about 20% were for Trump. Most of the young Vietnamese were cheering for Clinton, though some like Trump because they think he is a successful businessman. It's hard to explain his repulsiveness to someone who hasn't grown up learning about America's deep racial and gender divides.

Even while the results in Ohio and Florida started to turn towards Trump, we remained sure Clinton would pull through. Eventually I went home since the next round of results was taking a while, and then on to a work meeting. By that point it was clear that something was going horribly wrong. The meeting ended, and we all checked our phones - it appeared to almost be over. I met a friend at a bar and as soon as I sat down there was breaking news: Clinton had conceded. I fired off an angry Facebook status and began downing beers. How the fuck had this happened? How could tens of millions of Americans look at Trump's epic laundry list of horrible things and say, "ah, who cares?"

I was baffled, and it made me realize how disconnected I am from such voters. Obviously I'm physically disconnected since I'm in Vietnam, but I couldn't even fathom voting for such a man, and yet he had won. What did this mean for the country? How the hell do we come back from this and try to bridge these divides? I don't blame the people who voted for Trump - or at least not most of them. I fully understand that many have legitimate economic concerns. But the way his campaign played out - its bald-faced hatred of the Other, its complete disregard for decency and empathy and, especially disturbing as a member of the media, its constant denigration of the press - was disturbing in ways that I can't even articulate.

I've tried to find rays of hope - Trump contradicts himself so often, maybe he won't do any of the awful things he's proposed. He's a businessman, so maybe he can be pragmatic and make deals. But people don't change at age 70, and Trump's vice president might have even more abhorrent views than he does. It's been very difficult for me to find anything positive here. The country is divided as ever, we have completely screwed generations to come by electing a climate change-denier, and no one actually has any idea what Trump is going to do. Start a trade war with China? An arms race in Northeast Asia? Pull out of NATO? Something actually good? I have no idea, but I'm not optimistic. I've told my family that I will have to think long and hard about visiting America during Trump's presidency (it has to just be one term, right?). I probably will end up doing so at some point, but I would feel gross, like I was lending my (meaningless, of course) stamp of approval to this ghastly turn of events. For now, I'm just happy to be in Vietnam, trying to explain to my friends from other countries what the hell we've done.

I will actually post some Vietnam-related stuff soon, so stay tuned.


  1. It has been a long time since you last updated what is happening in Saigon. Looking forward to more posting . Thanks Mike