Note: This post will be brief and more politically slanted than usual. Its slant leans toward the values that I believe in and my method for representing America abroad.
I find myself thinking about what it will be like traveling internationally during the next 4 years under the Trump administration.
Our elected leaders matter when we travel.
The influence of the American government on the rest of the world's view of America and its citizens was omnipresent during my international travels while Obama was president just as it was when I traveled abroad during the Bush administration. These international travel experiences inevitably inform my outlook on the future. And they inform my steadfast position to keep traveling and spreading the values that I feel best represent me and my country.
I Knew Not to Take the Last 8 Years For Granted
Many Americans traveling over the last 8 years would agree with me: Barack Obama being our elected and re-elected president was the direct cause of the many very positive interactions I had with locals while I was abroad.
Especially in countries like Thailand and Bali, the symbolic nature of a brown-skinned president with a Muslim-sounding name elicited a special kind of response from people when they found out I was American.
On many occasions, stating "I'm from New York," would receive a smile and a knowing, "Ahhhh, Obama!!!" particularly from those with limited English language.
On several occasions, such as with the workers at my hostel in Ubud, I was never even identified as Rikka. They would merely say, "Heyyyy, it's Obamaaa!"—all positivity and smiles aplenty.
Each time I would hear my president's name, I would recall a time when the response to my nationality was very different.
Bush Caused Hostility Toward Americans Abroad
It was 2004, shortly after President Bush was re-elected, I traveled overseas for the first time:
With our unjust Iraq war creating havoc in the Middle East, the Irish locals I introduced myself to in Dublin, Cork, Killarney, Kilkenny, and Galway consistently implored that I keep my nationality to myself.
"Tell people you're Canadian," they would say with a chuckle and then a more serious eyebrow raise.
When I said I was American anyway, the Irish locals I met would aggressively ask me, "Why in bloody hell did you re-elect that bastard?!"
At only 16 years old at the time, I pled that I did not vote for him and neither did my family.
Travel Abroad Will Be Hard And Even More Important
I intend to travel internationally again in the next 4 years. And I will go anticipating similar, if not worse, hostility when I mention that I am American.
The world is not impressed with our most recent election results and the people are outraged over the policies already being ordered in only the first and second weeks of the new administration. Nevertheless, when I travel internationally, I will do so with as much gusto as ever.
While I did not always defend Obama's policies abroad, I will never defend our nation's currently elected administration—not if it continues the way it has.
I will, however, defend our democracy. I will defend freedom of speech. I will defend what many of us have been standing up for and fighting for despite the orders of our current leadership.
And that's it.
A Plea To All
As I have refrained from judging others for their government's faults, my only wish is that the citizens of other countries do not judge me or my fellow citizens for our government's faults.
Many of us did not elect this administration—the majority of us, in fact, did not! See the following photo that I snapped this past Sunday.
The man pictured was on the train heading to New York City with his family sitting next to him, a woman and child. They were all writing messages on cardboard. I gave them all a high five when I figured out they were heading to the Battery Park protest against the recent "Muslim Ban" executive order.
His sign quoted the plaque on our Statue of Liberty:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
While the Trump administration represents us on paper, it does not represent the majority of us in our hearts.
Still, I will not say I am from Canada when I am traveling over the next 4 or more years. I will not keep my nationality a secret. No. I will say I am American and I will always be a proud New Yorker wherever I go.
Even if my fellow citizens and I are stripped of most of our rights—no president or house or congress or anyone will be able to discourage me from leaving American soil and spreading my values, true humanistic values, wherever I go.
These values won't disappear in the dawn of a new presidency. They are here because we are here.
I am a part of a majority and we are the future.
Politically unusual times call for this unusually political post. And in two weeks, I will be posting about the Women's March I attended in Honolulu, Hawaii! Then, barring complete and utter calamity, I will continue with my usual travel posts about my most recent adventures all around the island of Oahu.