Around 2005, when I was working as a college recruiter for Yeshiva University, most of the high school seniors I interviewed were planning to take a gap year to study in Israel. I usually asked them where they planned on studying. One student told me that he had narrowed his choices to “Institution A” and “Institution B,” and in the end decided to go with Institution A.
I asked him what made him choose A over B. He answered that he had consulted with a friend who was already studying at Institution B, and who told him, “Don’t go to Institution A. They’re [insert negative word here].”
The interviewee told me that in that moment, he decided to go to Institution A. He explained that if the only positive thing his friend could say about B was something negative about A, then B wasn’t the kind of place he wanted to study.
Before I go further, I want to make it clear that I have no political agenda in this article. I’m simply sharing what I’m observing, and how it affects how I see both the United States and its political climate, and how these things affect my thoughts on the upcoming election (which I plan to vote in).
For over 13 years, I’ve been an expatriate American observing my native country from the outside looking in. Not being in the thick of things has given me a different perspective.
In just the last few months alone, I’ve seen on social media and news outlets such as CNN and Fox News how Americans have dealt with the pandemic, protests, riots, an elevated distaste for police, a ridiculous number of shootings in Manhattan alone, etc. None of these things is new – they just seem to be happening all at once.
I have two siblings whom I love dearly. One is very pro-Trump. The other is very anti-Trump. (Yes, I’m the middle child.) The pro-Trump sibling is pro-Trump all day, all the time. The anti-Trump sibling is the exact opposite. With the latter, I see little to no positive posts about who they’re for. Rather, their posts are almost entirely anti-Trump. The same is true for most, if not all, of my anti-Trump friends.
The pro-Trump sibling has invited me to right-wing events, which I’ve attended. Not because I necessarily believe in everything that was said, but because I want to hear both sides of the dialogue. I’d do the same if the anti-Trump sibling invited me to left-wing events. I want to understand the logic from both sides. I’ve said to both of them, “Family before politics.”
I was a registered Democrat for almost my entire adult life. Until last year. In 2019, at the Rhode Island Department of Motor Vehicles, I decided to become a registered independent. I did this because I don’t think there are many examples of absolute right and wrong. All politicians are human, and no human is perfect.
To this day, there is not a single human being who knows who I voted for in the 2016 presidential election. I don’t want my choice to label me. What I will say is who I considered voting for. They include, but are not limited to, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, my father (sadly, I couldn’t consider my mother since she wasn’t born in the U.S.), and other candidates who most people probably haven’t even heard of.
In December 2019, I attended the White House Hanukkah party with my pro-Trump sibling. Like previous events I attended with them, I worried this would label me. I even consulted with my anti-Trump friends, who gave me their blessings to go.
Not only was it a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but I had a memorable time with my sibling. I would go to such an event, for a different president, with my other sibling if the opportunity presented itself.
Like the student I interviewed all those years ago, I need to hear a reason to vote for someone, not against someone else. I want to run toward causes and beliefs, not away from them.
So, what this expat American is suggesting is to give me reasons to vote for someone, not against someone. As my mother always reminds me: “You get more from honey than you do from vinegar.”
DANIEL STIEGLITZ (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a corporate recruiter and certified Life Coach who lives in Jerusalem. His collection of short stories, “Tavern of the Mind,” is available for paperback and Kindle purchase at Amazon. www.amzn.to/2Izssrz.