Being an American in Japan during a Presidential election year is certainly turning out to be an interesting experience. The primaries have been covered fairly regularly in Japan, and as the token American (literally my job) I have been asked many questions about the candidates, the election, and US citizens in general in relation to the search for our next leader.
Naturally the election does not stir up the same anxious tension that it does in the US, but it is something that many Japanese people follow with varying degrees of interest. As I imagine in much of the world, the worrying rise in popularity of Donald Trump is certainly a topic in conversation and the news.
Most people I have spoken to in Japan would like to see Hillary Clinton win the presidency. When asked why, the most common responses I have heard are that she is the only candidate that they know, and that she is the most like President Obama, who is generally liked and respected in Japan.
The conversation usually begins the same way. First, I am tentatively asked if I support Trump. When I answer in the negative (looking mildly offended with a waving hand gesture, closing my eyes while sighing deeply, or dramatic pantomimes of death throes are usually my go-to Trump denial methods), I am asked who I do support (first Sanders and then Clinton), and then a comment is made usually along the lines of “What are Americans thinking?”
I never know how to answer that question. One of the challenges I face in trying to be a good ALT is not only representing my own feelings and experiences as a foreigner, but also to bring attention to the experiences and beliefs of other Americans as well. I’m not trying to convince anyone to vote a certain way or say that I am right and other people are wrong. Even so, in Japan it’s hard not to think Trump’s entire candidacy is one drawn out joke. As the primaries move on, though, it is a joke that is starting to get more and more terrifying.
If Trump wins the nomination, or even the election, I feel like representing my country will become increasingly uncomfortable.
For the time being, I expect to have many more conversations like the one I had the other day:
“Do you like him?” a teacher asked, pointing at a picture of Trump in the newspaper.
“No,” I said. “I think he’s scary. What do you think?”
The teacher paused for a minute before he replied. “Me too. Me too.”
And that’s just it. Trump is scary. The US is scary. And the idea of Trump running it is terrifying for, well, just about everyone.
But what do I know?