There Once Was A Girl From Chicago… My Adventures Studying In Limerick, Ireland

November 15, 2016

By Mary Alice Maloney

I cried a lot on November 9. The results of the election shocked me to my core and I burst into tears as soon as I woke up that morning and had tears still sitting in my eyes when I went to bed that night. On November 8, I tried to stay up to watch the results come in, but after a while the six-hour time difference between here and home was making my eyelids heavy. I drifted to sleep hoping, praying and telling myself that America would make the right decision. The despair of reality was crushing.

Being abroad for the last few months of this election, I was hoping to be slightly removed from the constant barrage of attacks and contention and general nastiness between the two campaigns, from both the media and among people I knew. I planned to follow the important updates and voted with my absentee ballot, but I was looking forward to the distance.

Before arriving in Ireland, we were warned not to talk politics openly in public- not just American politics, but Irish politics and about Brexit- as a way to steer clear of unpleasant or confrontational interactions. I knew some discussions would eventually take place, but I was prepared to be careful and respectful. I was excited to hear the opinions of Europeans on the American election.

I knew people around the world were curious about the election, but I never could have guessed just how deeply opinionated they would be about it. All exaggerations aside, I hear about or am asked about the election every single day. Every. Single. Day. My professors bring it up, my classmates ask about it, random people in pubs grill me on it and even my cab drivers laugh about it in my face. As soon as I say, “Hi, my name is Mary Alice”, they say “Oh, you’re from America? Is Trump going to win? Who are you voting for? What the hell is happening over there?”

The Irish people I’ve met are not afraid to talk about American politics, especially in this tumultuous time. They aren’t afraid to get in your face about it and express how completely disgusted they are with Trump, how Clinton is okay and how much they love Bernie Sanders. They viewed the election as a huge joke and now openly laugh at the winner. They’re relentless in letting me know how they feel about it. Sometimes it could get nasty and uncomfortable, as people would scream that America is doomed no matter what and wouldn’t let me get a word in edgewise and other times people had genuine concerns and questions, and were worried about the possibility of a Trump win. “How could a guy like that get so far?” they’d ask.

I still have no answer for these people. It’s only been a few days since Trump won the election and the Irish and other Europeans are having a field day with it. I dreaded going to classes on Wednesday because I knew what I was in for. My Irish Language professor walked in the room, set down his bag and said “What the f*** happened?” I almost started crying again as I shook my head and shrugged my shoulders. I heard some German and French students laughing. “Hey, if Trump can become president I can pass this final exam!” one said joyfully. “The leader of the free world is a reality TV star with no experience or background,” another said through a grin. No one here is taking Trump’s presidency seriously and I cannot blame them. However, no one I’ve met seems to be trying to empathize with the fact that we have to return home to live this nightmare as our immediate reality, and that I do not appreciate.

I want so badly to stand up for my country, but I’m not sure how to do that right now. It’s impossible for me to defend this decision. I am lost. What I can do is remind everyone who has lost faith in America to remember that not all Americans believe in walls, prejudice and hatred. Not all Americans disrespect the existences of those who are different from them. All Americans believe that they are fighting for what is right, and while right now that may be what is dividing us, hopefully that passion and light will soon bring us together. We have to listen to each other, keep moving forward and hope beyond hope because the world is watching and we have no other choice.