From the former president’s crime bill, which among other things eliminated funds for inmate education and expanded the death penalty, the welfare reform which depleted aid to children, the reversal of tariffs on industries that protected certain middle class jobs, to Hillary’s vote for Iraq and other big military decisions, to the Clinton’s big money campaign donations, to the fact that Hillary waited years to vocally support LGBT rights, not to mention her secrecy, I’m not a Hillary fan, and no matter how many positive stories I read about Hillary, I don’t find myself liking her.
But I will probably vote for her.
I moved overseas a year or so after Obama became president, so Bush and the war of Iraq was still raw on people’s minds. A popular questions whenever a foreigner travelers, especially a foreigner that is instantly recognized as a foreigner before she even speaks, is “where are you from?” Whenever I mentioned that I was from the United States, I would receive a grin back and the locals would say, “Bush.” Then, I would get follow up questions, such as did I vote for him, how could my country vote for him, and why was Bush so popular.
Before I knew the language, I mostly received laughter back. I still remember this one man in the market who just sat there laughing and repeating, “Bush and USA.” For me, it was offensive, because I was a child when Bush was elected, but laughter was his reaction.
During the Republican primaries prior to Obama’s reelection, the kids (I cared for) and I visited the refugee camps along the border. On the trip, one teenager explained that after his parents were murdered when the enemy invaded their village, he helped a group of kids escape. He hid the young kids in the jungle for six months, eating nothing but bamboo shoots and bugs and not moving for days at a time when the enemy army was near, until the rainy season began and they could begin their travel to the refugee camps (the army cannot move well during the rainy season). At this time, the kids and he had recently made it to camp, and he had begun first grade with all the children, only he was 16 and they were grade school age.
As the teenager told the story, I realized little how about the world some of these orphans probably knew. In order to assess their potential knowledge, we created trivia questions and played a game. Not so surprisingly, the children and teens knew very, very little about science and the world, but there was one question which every single person knew: the president of the United States.
On this same trip, we smuggled a 10 year old boy out of camp to get critical medical treatment in the city because he had lost his ability to walk on one leg. I say smuggle, the boy’s sister, grandparents, and elders all begged us to take the boy, but we had to use somecreativity to sneak past the camp guards, whose job is to make sure refugees don’t escape and then steal the local’s jobs or become adopted and then grow up to take their jobs (sound familiar?).
After the boy had treatment for what turned out to be parasites in his legs, my friend tried to return him to the camp, as gun shots went off in the area surrounding the camps. Because of the people’s enemy being immanent, the guards would not allow anyone to enter the camp. So the boy stayed with us for another month, and I got to know him more.
Prior to this whole experience, the boy did not know how to use a shower, use a toilet, or open a door with a door knob. He had never watched TV, rode in a car on paved roads, seen traffic lights or stop signs, or used a computer. He did not know how to read, did not know about volcanoes and dinosaurs, or how to tell time. He knew about elephants and tigers and how to survive on bamboo, but not the capital of neighbouring China or about the Mekong River that runs through the heart of SE Asia.
But he knew that the president of the United States was Obama.
And he probably knew about Bush (most of the children did).
The legacy the United States sets and leaves behind matters. When I brought supplies to the jungles of Laos, I was told not to leave the paths because of unexploded ordnance. In fact, just a month before I was there, the waitress told us, speaking a dialect not that dissimilar Northern Thai, “these four boys were playing in the pond last month, stuck a stick into pond, and their faces blew up. There was a hidden bomb there.” Americans did this during the Vietnam War.
Legacy matters. While Canadians students at my university just befriend international students from the middle east, I have to first explains why my country shot down Iran Air Flight 655, bombed Iraq, and has nominated a president who is calling for a complete and total shut down of muslims from entering the country. When I meet the new Syrian refugees in our Canadian city, I am reminded that my country blames the Syrian refugees of all the problems in the world. The little Syrian girl who the other day saw me drop groceries and offered me the use of her family’s shopping card . . . according to my country, she will grow up to bomb us.
For these reasons, I know I cannot risk a Trump presidency.
Many of my friends are voting third party. In a solid red or blue state, it probably does not matter. But I will not vote third party, not just because I do not want to risk a Trump presidency (though I am concerned), but also, because the world is watching. On election night, many nations will only know two things. (1) Did Trump win, or Hillary win, and (2) Did Hillary crush him?
I do not care for Hillary, but I do care about the refugees who are hearing about how Americans don’t like them. Electing Hillary, and electing her by a landslide, sends a clear message that we do not tolerate Trump’s racism and bigotry.
When the man in the market laughed at me for Bush, he probably didn’t know that many voted third party against him. What they know is the bottom line: Bush left a horrible legacy behind.
As Trump gave his speech at the RNC last week, and the crowd started chanting, “build that wall, build that wall,” I thought, “dear me if this is the legacy we leave behind.”
Some day, I will return to the refugee camps, and as children hug me, I want to know that I did everything I could to tear down the walls between us, not build them up.