Trumptrotting (Part Two)
‘Regular’ Folks in 13 Countries Evaluate Trump Presidency
In February 2017, The Reporters Inc.’s staff, Board of Directors, and Advisory Committee Members reached out to friends and associates living in different countries around the world, asking for their reactions, hopes and concerns about Donald Trump’s ascendency to President of the United States in the 2016 election, held four months earlier.
We compiled the responses of 14 “everyday” people from 13 different countries on four continents and published them in an article we called “Trumptrotting: Voices around the Globe Reflect on the Trump Presidency.”
19 months later, we’ve decided to reach out again. Below you’ll see the thoughts of 16 people (including five of the same folks from the first article) from 13 different countries on six continents.
Though by no means a scientific sampling, this wide array of thoughts and opinions provides a fascinating glimpse into the minds and hearts of people across the planet who have borne witness to the actions and effects of Trump and his administration. These observers discuss how his presidency has changed the U.S., its international impact, and how it’s affecting their own lives. (Due to safety or privacy concerns, some have asked us not to reveal their full identities.)
From Sydney, Australia: Pam Stevens, 68 years-old, retired expatriate
I’m an American and have been living in Sydney for the past three and a half years. The political atmosphere here has changed noticeably in that time. When I first arrived, Aussies would hear my American accent and start random conversations with me. About two years ago, those conversations would almost always turn to questions about my perspective on the then-upcoming 2016 presidential election.
Today, Donald Trump’s “promises,” better known as lies, have brought those interesting dialogues to a halt. First of all, immediately upon entering the White House, Trump blatantly began disparaging Australian leadership without any qualms. His actions were shameful and embarrassing. Has it affected Australians? Not directly, but America is now a joke, a laughingstock here (though that’s surely a global belief now, too). Nowadays, it’s inhibiting to open any real dialogue around current events. The natives are polite when it comes to talking about pretty much anthing – except politcs.
Trump’s political agenda? That’s not a real thing. The man living in the White House simply thinks he is above the law, who believes he has unlimited powers, and in his sociopathic state of mind still wants to be adored even as he single-handedly destroys people’s lives and ruins America’s economy with deficit-enlarging tax cuts for the rich — all just to line his own pockets. Trump views all this as his right, that he is entitled to do as he pleases. And as long as the red Congress steps aside from its duties, as long as they, as a collective group, ignore their constituents’ concerns, they are complicit in their support of Trump’s unethical, immoral and criminal behaviour.
In the long view of history, Trump will most likely be compared to other dictators and traitors who willfully set out to take power away from the people, to bully other countries and their leaders. Here in Australia, his lies fool absolutely no one.
From Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: Robert Ritzenthaler, international development worker and former journalist
In May 2004, the Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS dispatched me to Bujumbura, Burundi to document the Burundi National Defense Force’s HIV prevention program. One morning, as I was setting up my video equipment, I glanced at a local newspaper on the desk of a Burundian general.
Above the fold was a photo of an Iraqi man in Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison. He was hooded, standing on a box like a scarecrow, electrodes hooked to his extremities by his U.S. military captors.
The Burundian general strolled into his office and saw me eyeing his newspaper. As a U.S. citizen I felt ashamed, horrified. “It’s terrible, isn’t it?” I said self-consciously, attaching a lavalier microphone to the general’s lapel to record our interview.
The general, fierce-looking with a shaved head, looked at me sideways and smirked. “Why is it terrible?” he asked.
The enormity of the photo, and its ripple effect far beyond Baghdad or the United States, struck me. I realized that, for good or ill, people across the world monitor U.S. behavior very closely, taking cues. On the global stage, the United States has the power to model good behavior, or to enable horrific behavior.
I imagined the Burundian general would find it a bit easier to mistreat prisoners in his own country upon seeing U.S. mistreatment of prisoners in Iraq.
Fast-forward to 2018. Donald Trump is president, and I’m living in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I’m a development worker, focusing on HIV care and treatment. To mount an effective response to HIV, it’s imperative to address gender inequality, to disseminate accurate information, to reach out to the poor and marginalized. This is challenging work under the best of circumstances.
It’s made harder when the President of the United States calls the nations on this continent “shitholes,” claims women enjoy being grabbed “by the pussy,” has publicly mocked a reporter with a disability, tells people not to trust the media, advocates taking health care away from the most economically vulnerable, and condones removing children from their families.
As Abu Ghraib gave license to torturers around the world, Trump gives license to misogyny and bigotry. It’s a cold season for anyone trying, in their own little way, to make the world a better place.
From Ontario, Canada: Victoria, 69-years-old, retired floral designer and retail store manager
“You are the kindest country in the world. You are like a really nice apartment over a meth lab.” — Robin Williams, talking about Canada to Canadians in 2013
I love Robin Williams and I used to laugh at, or at the very least, smile whenever I saw this quote. Today though, I can’t seem to find the humour in it.
I’ve lived in Canada all of my life and have travelled extensively throughout North America, Central America and Europe. I was never seriously concerned or afraid while exploring my destinations and I never really feared living next to the U.S. Until now.
I knew two years ago that if the person currently in the White House won the election, the planet was in trouble. I knew with certainty that Canada would be in his crosshairs. I never once found any humour in his abject ignorance. The fact that so many supported this thug and his truly gross behaviours was mind-numbing and has shaken my belief in the goodness of humanity. He surrounds himself with the dregs of the earth — people who willfully, joyfully and inexplicably defend him and his band of miscreants.
What the sane see is someone intent on destabilising the western world and a man who is, without question, a racist — not to mention all his other well-documented really-awful qualities. Tearing children from their families, for example, is beyond horrendous and he doesn’t care. Apparently neither do his supporters. He speaks gibberish and they cheer. He demeans and denigrates and they defend him with no cognisance of how adversely they too are being affected.
The wake of destruction left in the path of this regime is far reaching and will take lifetimes to correct. My heart truly hurts for America and its citizens.
From London, England: Steve Gray, teacher, member of the LGBT+ community, backseat activist, secret socialist
Nearly a century ago, Europe was facing the political grip of far right activists, especially from a dictator named Hitler. Divide and conquer was their policy, their mantra. In 1945 this horrific grip was ended after a long and terrible war. To make sure this never happened again, the United Nations was formed.
If a man with power today, a man named Donald Trump, is so determined to destroy the work set out by the UN Declaration of Human Rights, not only those right of the LGBT+ community but any and all individual rights, it’s time to take a stand against this misogynistic, egoistic and self-centered man.
I was one of 250-thousand people who protested against Trump when he came to London this summer. We all believe he is a man that should have no power. He is a businessman, with no political experience. He runs his policies as though they’re business-based, not person-based. Running profit before individuals. He has no sense of empathy and is an embarrassment to the world.
We needed to tell him he wasn’t welcome that day, just as he makes migrants and refugees and their children feel unwelcome by putting them in cages – evil actions that are against the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights.
I’m glad I was one of so many who came out to protest. But London wan’t the only city in the United Kingdom to hold an anti-Trump rally that day. In all, more than a million people across the UK would protest this tyrant, a man who is taking the world to the same place Hitler did almost a century ago.
From Seville, Spain: Mabel Portillo Serrano, 48-years-old, innkeeper
Trump’s ideas are very contrary to Spanish ideas. Agriculturally, this is affecting the black olives crop, which is not good for us. The black olive industry is an economic necessity for the Andalusia region of Spain, where I live.
Furthermore, Former U.S. President Obama committed to recycling left-over nuclear waste that contaminated Andalusia as a result of the major plane crash in Palomares (Almeria) that occurred in 1966; Trump has not yet set a date for this since he became president.
Personally, I feel disgusted by Trump and I cannot believe that in the time we live that this individual uses such malignant tactics with such bad intent, breaks pacts relating to helping the environment, and does not protect animals (permitting hunting of elephants to obtain ivory, for example).
Everything related to this character is shameful.
From Seville, Spain: Marisa Cuadrado Ramos, 44-years-old, child psychologist specializing in early care
I do not like Donald Trump. I do not like him for Spain. I do not like him for North America and I do not like him for the world. This man represents the opposite of what I consider necessary for nations and people to coexist peacefully in the 21st century. He is sexist, racist and considers us to be a place of second class citizens simply because we are Latino. He belives this without knowing us, without knowing our culture, without knowing our origins.
This opinion he has of us was expressed for the first time (as far as I know) in 2012, when he referred to Spain in relation to the collapse of the value of the Euro, labeling the European economy as “an absolute disaster.” Later that year, Trump considered the political and economic uncertainty that existed in Spain as an opportunity for U.S. investors to start looking for possible business opportunities here. “Spain is an incredible place, a great country, but it is sick, it has a fever, and we must take advantage of this moment,” he said. I think that only a vulture can think and say this. If a country is “sick,” help it to heal. Don’t take advantage of its “disease” to benefit you.
Everyone knows that Trump is a denier of the effects of climate change, does not want or believe in renewable energy, and has even said that wind energy has killed thousands of birds in Arizona. He takes advantage of any news in the rest of the world to give validity to his nefarious ideas. In 2013, the Spanish government, after a huge investment in clean and renewable energies, decided to withdraw aid, investments and subsidies to maintain wind farms, because cosnumer prices had been kept too far below regulated costs. Trump used this action to mock wind energy, tweeting: “The Spanish government is closing the windmills. Their maintenance is greater than their income.” And in this way he continues to support their negationist theory.
The new Trump tariffs for Spanish black olives have already resulted in 50 employee layoffs for the Agro Sevilla olive export company. The U.S. represents 20 percent of the production of black olives from Agro Sevilla. According to the Spanish Association of Producers and Exporters of Table Olives, the export of black table olives from Spain to the United States, after the implementation of Trump tariffs, has already fallen by 42 percent. The U.S. market has always been the biggest customer of Agro Sevilla and that is why they have a branch in the state of Virginia that serves as an importer. But this factory, which has 12 workers, could disappear completely because it would not make sense if we do not have distribution to the United States.
The United States is a strong competitor of Spain for tourism, so the instability generated in the United States by Trump’s anti-immigration laws, rhetoric, isolationist policies and the perception of the United States by foreign people as an insecure or intolerant country might be influencing some people to opt for Spain as a tourist destination instead. So, with that in mind, at least there is somegood news for us to find in his presidency. But it’s not the kind of good news anyone really wants.
From Higashikagawa City, Japan: John Sandin, 51-years-old, American living in Japan for 12 years, language instructor
Since the beginning of the Trump administration, I think most Japanese people have outwardly had a wait-and-see attitude toward Trump. The relationship between the two countries has thus far survived a total of nine meetings, no less than three golf weekends, and even an awkwardly long handshake that received a lot of media coverage here in Japan.
Initially, Japanese people seemed a bit confused over what “Make America Great Again” exactly meant. Did it mean that America only cares about itself now? It certainly didn’t sound as inclusive and positive as Obama’s ”Yes We Can” campaign slogan from 2008.
For the most part, Japan doesn’t seem to have been directly affected very much in the first year and a half of this presidency. Japan has been a minor target of Trump rhetoric, but not the focus of any serious effort to rebalance trade relations. One thing that people here did notice though, was when Trump withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), soon after taking office. Many people in Japan, primarily farmers, were actually relieved when Trump did this. There had been a “Stop TPP” poster campaign in the countryside. I’d encountered “Stop TPP” posters near rural bus stops and train stations, and even seen people on the street handing out flyers. Some people (usually non-farmers) that I spoke with dismissed this campaign as selfish and short-sighted. In the end, I think it was the secretive nature of the agreement that turned people off. Nobody had any idea what they were really signing up for, and they were therefore fearful. The withdrawal came as a big shock to the Japanese government.
More recently, people have taken notice of what’s been happening with other countries’ relationships with the U.S. They’ve noticed how Trump is now having trade disputes with his closest allies, and they’re starting to voice some concerns. Trump is viewed as unpredictable, and prone to Twitter outbursts. Modern Japan is a country that is absolutely dependent on the importing and exporting of goods. Japan trades with pretty much anybody. This country hasn’t the ability to enforce its will upon others, so therefore must negotiate. People here understand that good trade relations are necessary for prosperity and peace.
The Japanese wonder whether Trump understands that international trade relations need to be balanced in order to work properly. The current system has been built up over decades, and a sudden restructuring of the trade system in favor of the U.S., but to the detriment of its trading partners, may upset that balance and possibly destroy the system. Is Trump taking this into account? Does he really know what he’s doing? Does he have a vision of the big picture? So far, only questions are mounting, with few answers. I hope that when they do come, it won’t be too late.
From Kyoto, Japan: Paul Crouse, life coach, writer and photographer, American living in Japan for 23 years
Trump is like crystal meth. Once you have some, you have to have more — and it destroys you. Just google “crystal meth before and after photos” and you’ll see what’s happening to us. He is the distraction. That is his job and he is brilliant at it. Like a stage magician, he gets us to look at one hand while the other is doing its tricks.
He is distracting us from what is really important, which is climate change. We need to be focusing on quickly transitioning to a low carbon economy and preparing for the multitude of changes that will occur as the atmosphere rapidly heats. Everything else is secondary. He is also distracting us so we don’t see how the Republican Party is systematically dismantling the federal government, except for the military and security services. He is helping his rich friends get richer and dividing the rest of us so we fight over the table scraps.
Trump has a magical way of sucking the oxygen out of the room and bringing all of the attention back to him. And we continue to fall for it. There is an old saying that you should never look directly at a demon, because it will entrance and enslave you. This is exactly what he’s doing. When you’re pissed off at him, he’s stealing your attention and energy, and his friends continue to rob the store in plain sight.
I have a message for the Democrats: quit fighting amongst yourselves. Politics is about building coalitions, not ideological purity. Get every single person that is disgusted by what is happening on your side. Get them out to vote for you. Street demonstrations don’t change things. Having your people in control of Congress and the state houses does.
From São Paulo, Brazil: Malu Ferraz de Arruda, 54-years-old, journalist, married mother of three
Trump’s presidency, unfortunately, is the result of society’s rejection of change and human evolution — factors such as gender equality, the end of racism, globalization resulting in the opening of borders, free trade, environmental preservation, and better distribution of wealth among all human beings of this planet. Here in Brazil, we will have a presidential election next October and the lead candidate today (Jair Bolsonaro) is very similar to Trump. I really hope God and the Brazilians do not allow him to be elected!
Trump’s actions as president are focused only on the U.S.’ interests. He doesn’t really seem to care how his selfish actions will affect the rest of the world’s population. Because of the importance and power of the United States, this tendency of his to reap benefits from others without helping them in return will lead to more economic instability and possibly poverty in the countries (like Brazil) that depend on exports to the United States. Consequently, this may lead to an increase in people emigrating from submissive and dependent countries to other lands in search of better economic and social standings.
Trump’s political conduct, in my opinion, is not only cruel and disrespectful to the human race, it’s also dumb because it is creating conflicts around the world – conflicts that will harm the U.S. itself in the long run.
From Nanjing, China: Leon, 30-years-old, private contractor, American who has lived in China for seven years
Thanksgiving weekend was approaching and I was boarding a flight in Nanjing to visit some old friends in Changsha for a holiday feast. I’d been in my seat for only a few minutes when I glanced to my right and a man with a mighty grin stuck his thump up and muttered the word “Trump.” It was one of the few times I’ve actually heard his name spoken aloud or in public among the Chinese.
Politics and political issues are seldom discussed in China, especially around a foreigner. Even when the Global Timesand the China Dailyrally against President Trump, this never really resonates to a conversation. We may talk about political issues such as healthcare, education and the environment, but we always leave names out and by no means point a finger of blame. Even during that rare occasion when a hot button topic does come up, such as the South China sea or economic sanctions or tariffs, Trump’s name isn’t used. People say “America” — as if America is Trump, and Trump is America. His antics have been so widely criticized that even those least interested in American politics are well informed.
The story is vastly different among my foreign friends. We playfully mock each other’s countries’ political agendas, more or less to throw a humorous light on the situation. Occasionally, we take a step back to realize how sad the situation is in the U.S. They find President Trump to be childish and hateful. They’re baffled that someone with his political agenda and checkered past was elected.
From Paris, France: Yassine, 24-years-old, international business student, originally from Béjaïa, Algeria
I still can’t resign myself to believe that two years ago the American people elected a narcissistic, misogynist and racist old guy with no political career who spent his life between beauty pageant contests and reality TV shows. I find it horribly interesting to keep up with the news everyday — it’s as if we are live-streaming an Idiocracy.
I remember the day he was elected. I woke up in the morning of November 9th in the suburbs of Paris and received a notification from Le Monde(a daily French newspaper), astonishingly announcing his win. The day before I was arguing and betting about the election with a friend. “Never underestimate the capacity of people to surprise you,” he said. “After all, the U.S. once elected a former movie star (Ronald Reagan).” I retorted with something like, “In any case he won’t make it to the the end of the term.”
Here we are, two years into his reign, watching his daily mischief — from the Muslim ban to the taxation of foreign products, from the recent clash with European Union leaders (the U.S.’ closest allies) to, in contrast, his buddying up with autocratic regimes. To be fair, he’s got something in common with the latter.
Slowly, with the help (or not) of his red majority in the U.S. Senate, using his conservative and populist policies (which seem to be the trend these days), he is going to further isolate the U.S. from the rest of the world. Frankly, the global image of the U.S. is dimming, for better or for worse, in favor of leaders like France’s Emmanuel Macron and Canada’s Justin Trudeau, who tend to work a lot on the image of their countries in the world in order to become more competitive.
What’s most upsetting is that he has succeeded in repressing immigrants all over the world from coming to the U.S. This is a workforce that the U.S. can’t afford to lose — among them: intellectuals, scientists and artists who would have brought their skills to use for the betterment of the country. America’s trademark, the “land of opportunities,” is no more.
I guess it’s not that easy to “Make America Great Again.” I doubt that Trump even cares.
From Paris, France: Sabina, retired English teacher
No American president has made people talk more than Trump. Journalists talk about him all the time. He’s a star. Yet Europe’s constant confrontations with this president, who seems to mistrust us, call for a response. Many are saying that it’s the moment to free ourselves from a World War II-era collaboration and put European military and industrial means to use.
Has he woken up Europe (which needs it) by his jabs? Barely. Is Europe capable of uniting and reforming? We’ll see. Is Brexit the beginning of the end? To be determined. How is Europe going to resist the secondary global power, China? Brexit and the American reaction are earthquakes but there are also mini-earthquakes like the attitude in Italy, etc.
But actually, all that matters to the world at large regarding Trump are his pro-business policies and how we respond to them. For economists, he has a truly logical plan of action. All of his choices are contributing to it. Markets are working full-throttle, reacting by the hour to Trump’s whims. Trump is for immediate growth, for protectionism and the rejection of globalization. At the moment, from an economics standpoint, the U.S. isn’t doing badly. He thus isn’t hesitating to try to get rid of the safety net of social security. The cost of protectionism will be heavily felt in a couple years, but after Trump’s departure.
Gradually reducing government and globalization is what the French president is also putting in place. Must be a policy of the times (let’s hope that Macron will maintain the existing social safety nets…)
As far as Trump’s “accomplishments” as president go, he has managed to trash the Iranian nuclear agreement, to get out of the climate accords, to block immigrants from Muslim majority countries from coming to the U.S. But a lot of his proposals haven’t been realized. For example, I believe Obamacare still persists.
He’s only muzzling the environmental problem, and trying to muzzle his potential adversaries (like the media and governmental officials who criticize him), he’s separating immigrant families, and he distrusts human progress. He takes a lot of vacations but supposedly still has time for work, which is highly doubtful.
This is what’s not new since the election: Trump is still ignorant of a lot of subjects, history and geography included. To be accused of sexism and racism doesn’t deter him. He doesn’t respect other heads of state. He doesn’t mince his words (concerning Africans or Koreans, among others) and he thumbs his nose at protocols. We’re living a little slice of reality TV with Trump — and this is dangerously distancing us from actual reality.
Sabina’s thoughts about Trump 19 months ago, published in conjunction with our first “Trumptrotting” article:
75 percent of French people are worried about the direction the U.S. is headed–about foreign politics, of course, in terms of the alliance with Putin and the rejection of NATO–and in terms of domestic politics, immigration and social security (the end of Obamacare?).
Alas, the three powers in the U.S. are all majority Republican. For the moment, we can’t count on the Senate, the House of Representatives or the Supreme Court to stop anything Trump tries. So maybe, two years for him to mess things up?
The anti-global trade economic system that Trump favors might also put the U.S. in danger. Regardless, those bored people [who voted for him] are going to cry.
Obama was someone big, although not much helped by the other branches of government. I have admiration for him.
America has already had presidents who endangered world peace, namely, the Bush son (consider the scheming in Iraq in 2003 and their dramatic consequences, including the fallout with our former president, Jacques Chirac).
The polls about Trump’s popularity and support in France aren’t settled yet, and these days the only people who get joy out of reading the newspaper are the Front National (hyper-conservative party in France) supporters.
As for the Clinton-Trump match, had the popular vote served its purpose and worked for the general good, we would have had Clinton–regardless of Russian (or others’) propaganda and skullduggery. I would have hoped that Americans would be better versed on the facts. Why not abolish the Electoral College system? It seems like it’s outdated and obsolete.
From Singapore in Southeast Asia: Nataly, Russian native, immigrated to the U.S. years ago, moved to Singapore four years ago when her husband was transferred
I don’t think that the opinions about Trump have really changed all that much, one way or the other, over the past 19 months. People who didn’t like Trump then still seem to not want to cross over to his side. Having said that, I did notice that Singaporeans are a bit more “wary” of Americans now. Hard to explain why, but the speculation that is running among the expats I talk with is that they see them more as “unpredictable” and as “not trustworthy.”
The Trump-Kim Jong-un summit here this past June was, obviously, a major talk of the town, but that was also a polarizing event. Many grumbled that the cost was too high and it inconvenienced them. Despite the fact that the summit was well-organized, especially on such short notice, and that the final cost came under budget, they still complained. With that said, the the summit caused a certain level of anxiety here because world politics involving the U.S., North Korea and nuclear war were brought into people’s backyards.
I haven’t stepped on American soil since Trump came into office but my view from abroad the last 19 months makes me think Trump and his administration seem nothing but chaotic, filled with outrageous lies, incredible hypocrisy, and without any progress in terms of making life in the U.S. better. It seems that the U.S. has taken several significant steps backwards — by rolling back healthcare, by passing atrocious tax “cuts” that are nothing short of wealth redistribution for the already wealthy, by sabotaging relationships with other world leaders, and by rolling back environmental protections (while other smaller countries have made steps to make things better in that arena).
Overall, it just seems that the U.S. has vacated its leadership on all of the progressive fronts it has been heading for decades. It has confused the world about what it really stands for and its future direction. I am positive that, as a result of relinquishing this leadership, Russia and China will step up and take swift advantage of the situation.
Last year, Nataly contributed to our original “Trumptrotting” article. This is what she wrote:
We don’t even know whom to trust anymore as we got pretty disgusted by the media during the campaign. When you take yourself out of the U.S. and start looking at it from the outside in, you realize that very little of what is on TV or the Internet is unbiased and is actually journalism, as opposed to someone’s opinion. Keeping in mind that most of our friends are expats as well, most (Australians and Brits) are not fans of Trump or what he stands for.
In speaking generally with some local cab drivers, their thoughts can be summarized as (a) they loved Obama (b) trade concerns are making them nervous (c) Singapore heavily relies on the U.S. as a friend and a partner, and because people are afraid of China having too much power, that nervousness about trade has been compounded by Trump.
As for me personally, I wasn’t a fan of Trump or Hillary Clinton. It was sad that neither party could come up with a candidate who had strong principles, morals, and an actual plan as to how to bring positive change that is desperately needed.
When you live in a country like Singapore, a country where not paying taxes is not even an option, where the government runs a surplus that is then constantly reinvested into infrastructure to make government systems efficient, where the possession of drugs is punishable by death (resulting in no drug problems), where there are no shootings because possession of guns of any kind is illegal and punishable by death, where it takes me just 40 minutes to go from my shower at home to the gate of my plane (because going through security doesn’t take two-hours here), and where I don’t have to sit in traffic because the number of cars on the roads is regulated to limit pollution and congestion, it is easy to start seeing that things could be done differently, and there is a different way to live that can actually work.
As far as the U.S.-Russia situation goes, as a Russian who hasn’t lived there for 20 years now, but who goes back once every year or two, I’ve never heard Russian media or Russian people or even Putin (who speaks to the public on TV often) express any negative sentiments about the U.S. or make it sound like America was its enemy.
And lastly, as far as polarizing the country, I think it’s impossible for any unpopular candidate to be a popular president. I do feel that American politics got so complex during the campaign and, in the absence of unbiased journalism, it’s now, sadly, hard to differentiate truth from “alternative facts.”
From Helsinki, Finland: Pirkko Tavaila, health and wellness advocate, member of The Reporters Inc. advisory committee
As I said in my comments 19 months ago (see below), Finland stays officially neutral when it comes to the politics of other countries. Taking into consideration the size and geographical location of our country, it’s understandable and important that we actively try to advance understanding and peace between nations. This is why so many high-profile meetings have been held here over the course of our history, including the recent summit between Trump and Putin.
Press articles and social media posts in Finland offer a lot of criticism and ridicule of Trump, but also some support. When someone in the media here writes a column about a “countdown” to the end of Trump’s presidency based on all of the allegations and ongoing investigations, you will also see another one next to it concentrating on the aspects of positive economical changes that have taken place during his presidency. The Finnish press is free to cover it all, and it does.
In the modern era of “fake news” and propaganda, there is a lot of black-and-white thinking (people have made up their minds about him and aren’t changing them) but at the same time, there’s also a lot of the “let’s wait and see” mindset. Perhaps it’s in our nature to avoid heating up. Keeping cool is certainly an attitude that has helped Finland exist as a free country for the past 100 years.
Last year, Pirkko contributed to our original “Trumptrotting” article. This is what she wrote:
As always, Finland officially stays very neutral. Well-functioning relationships with all foreign countries is always our goal. We also consider environmental topics important.
However, there are also “more subjective” statements regarding Trump; for example, his inauguration speech. An ex-foreign minister, Erkki Tuomioja (a social democrat), here in Finland found Trump’s address disturbingly similar to a speech that Hitler gave in January 1933. In comparison, the current foreign minister Timo Soini (far right politically) bluntly stated in a blog and Tweet that Trump’s speech was exactly what he would have expected from him and that it remains to be seen what will happen with his presidency.
Finland is leading the Arctic Council until 2019. The hope is apparently to get all members of the council around the same table during Finland’s chairmanship. That would mean a high profile summit where presidents of the United States and Russia would both be present. (The member states of the Arctic Council are Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Russia, the U.S. and Canada. The Council is a forum for promoting environmental protection, sustainable development and the inhabitants’ well-being in the Arctic areas.)
Support and opposition coexist in Finland for both Trump and the policies of Obama. This can clearly be seen in people’s social media news feeds. Opinions seem to be more strongly divided with President Trump. The two presidents attract completely different reactions and supporters/opponents because they are so different by character and political views. The energies around the two of them are obviously totally different, and energy attracts like energy. I don’t recall people talking about fear when Obama became president. All in all, I think that people were then, and are now, eager to see what will happen during the new presidency. Everybody wants to know how it will affect Europe and the rest of the world.
Given Finland’s history and geographical location, we are a very peace-loving country. We believe in democracy and equality. Ultimate approval/disapproval of Trump will follow facts that remain to be seen. Obama was easy to admire. And he was widely admired. With that said, there are people in Finland who admire Trump as well. Your new president certainly raises eyebrows, to say the least.
Personally, I refuse to give my energy to what I want to get rid of. This is a contrast situation. I am expecting that people everywhere (as individuals and collectively) will come to know what they value. Especially in the U.S. No more playing ignorant. People will be forced to form clear opinions on things and in areas of life that they have not even thought about before. I hope that more peace and equality will come out of this. Eventually. I hope there won’t be any more wars before that outcome.
Let me end by sharing with you an article that was published recently in the Finnish press. The title: “Dear Mr Trump, this is why you should come to Finland”…it’s priceless!
From Padua, Italy: Haruko, native of Japan, doctoral level mathematician, mother of two, moved to Italy in 1990 when her husband was transferred
I believe that it’s clear now that Russia helped Trump win the election, not because Trump asked for it but because Russia did not want an excellent president (like Clinton) in the U.S. I wonder if Putin is trying to dominate the world by ruining our elections.
Trump says that teachers should carry guns in their classrooms. That means that a teacher like me would never be able to do what she loves. I’m good at math and good at teaching math but I would never be able to learn how to use and fire a gun. I understood that Trump is saying this to obtain the votes of the National Rifle Association and its milllions of members. I understand that the gun business is a big business. I’m sorry that our lives are less important than this business.
Some say Trump is getting to be more confident about his political instincts and that his instincts are excellent. Others say he’s too unpredictable and that his words often contradict his actions. For example, he says he wants to help establish better relations between the Israelis and Palestinians, yet he moves the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. This was a hindrance to peace.
There are so many serious problems. He doesn’t listen to the advice of experts who truly know and understand the East Asian countries. So how can he do a good job with the concerns involving North Korea? His climate change denials are also problematic. We might lose the wonderful qualities of the envrionment: nature, air, greenery. Once they’re all used up, there’s no difference between enemy and ally. All will be ruined.
Here are Haruko’s thoughts from 19 months ago:
We need to wait, see, and then analyze what is going on, and what will happen, in the U.S. Namely, we are all waiting until Trump really learns the basics of politics.
Since both Trump and Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s former prime minister, had great success in business before getting involved in politics, some Italians think that Trump is some kind of Berlusconi. However, I think they are basically very different. When Berlusconi was elected, he did things that were convenient for his own businesses and for his own family. Instead, Trump seems to be doing what he thinks is right for his nation although he is still ignorant about his new job.
Right after the election, I had the opportunity to talk to some American Christians. They said, “Trump is a jerk, but Clinton is a criminal.” They called her a killer because she supports a woman’s right to abortion. “We had to choose between two bad candidates,” they said. But choosing the president is like choosing a pilot of a very sophisticated airplane. Let us suppose for the moment that Clinton actually is a killer. My question is, “Is it best to choose an unqualified non-killer pilot rather than a very qualified pilot (but also a killer) to navigate our rplane?”
I think the presidential candidates should pass at least some kind of a qualifying exam. Before the election, the Italian news simply didn’t consider Trump as a possible president because they thought he did not qualify. The same was also said in Japan.
Many power holders in history have manipulated information. It was usually done secretly. But Trump lies openly and publicly under the name of “alternative facts.”
I’ve been watching the growing fight between the judicial system and Trump’s abuse of executive orders. I hope the process of democracy keeps working in the U.S. but I think that in order for that to happen, every voter needs to become far more aware of the essence of democracy, develop an ability to examine information they obtain more carefully, and have a much clearer idea about the prerequisites of the presidency.
From Cape Town, South Africa: Nodi Murphy, member of the LGBT+ community, retired film festival director
Donald Trump, a.k.a. Agent Orange.
What were you thinking, America? You, like me, must be speechless, gobsmacked, at the dreadful spectacle you have unleashed upon us all.
At the height of the mob and mafia murders in 1930, astronomers discovered planet Pluto and ascribed it the dark energy of the era. Now we’re in the age of the Black Hole, and a scion with echolalia, your tinpot POTUS, Putineska’s pet, is a sign of these toxic testerical times, not only of the Grey Old Privileged but your ineffectual opposition.
So, what’s new? Nothing. Centuries ago Sophocles and Shakespeare, both of whom wrote about power and the madness of power corrupted, can be plumbed for apt quotations to describe your dilemma. However, the words of Irish poet W.B. Yeats in 1919 seem most prescient.
Yeats predicted, through poetry, the ascension of a “rough beast” that manifested as the chaos and upheaval of Nazism and Fascism, wreaking havoc across Europe.His poem, “The Second Coming,” suggests that world affairs and spirituality must undergo transformation to survive, that humankind has to experience darkness to appreciate the much-needed light.
The Second Coming
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
Today, there’s another “rough beast,” a 21st century American nightmare, moving its “slow thighs” across the entire planet. And only you, America, can fix it.
F*ck! Fix it!
Nodi’s thoughts about Trump from our original article in February 2017:
Though I listen to BBC radio and read The Daily Maverick, a South African online news and opinion site, mine is a shallow pond, and these my shallow ponderings:
We here in South Africa are at the bottom of the planet, at the farthest remove from the United States. No doubt we trade with the U.S., we have our Globals that plough and mine all kinds of useful stuff, but I reckon we are a small player. And, since the change in regime in 1994 (when apartheid ended), we’re off that pariah radar and are considered, mostly, one of the more stable countries on this continent.
So, America is a little far away, and we are of little concern to you. We didn’t feature much during Obama’s tenure and I doubt we’ll be of any real interest for Trump. Or for Americans in general. You have Others, and yourselves, in your sights.
We, my milieu, were gobsmacked by your unpleasantly combative election. Will it spill over on to us, this Trump presidency? No doubt. There are overwhelming changes a-coming, but I have no way of calculating the ways or the cost to us. We are mere onlookers, innocent bystanders perhaps, and, maybe, we think you got what you deserved for not being vigilant enough.
And we have our own profound problems to worry on. Trump is a sideshow to the drama that is the ANC (African National Congress, the social democratic political and ruling party of the country beginning with the election of Nelson Mandela in ‘94) that is losing ground and credibility. Scandals abound, incompetence and looting are the headlines. Have we, too, got what we deserve?
My stalwart ANC friends take the long view–they say the tenets of the movement are deep, well thought out and generous, our Constitution is a magnificent work, and that after the high of liberation, there is the trough, and then the rise.
Sadly, it seems, we are not at bottom yet. And you’ve a way to go. I just hope you don’t take us with you.
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