Make America Sane Again: A message from Norway

In U.S. presidential races, the bickering between candidates gets ugly and this year, it’s been downright disgusting. As an American living abroad, it’s been plain embarrassing.

Even though many of us Americans don’t follow the politics of other countries, the rest of the world watches ours. My friends here in Norway are monitoring this election very closely, and the most common question I am asked is: Why?

“Why do Americans want a man like Donald Trump in the White House? Don’t they see he is just a sexist, racist clown with no experience?”

I don’t pretend to speak for other Americans, but I usually say that people are entitled to their opinions, though I also don’t understand the Trump thing.

I do, but I don’t. I do get it in the sense that I see the frustrated Americans who tired of the political establishment and want to find a way to improve our system of governance. What I don’t understand is that some are willing to vote in anyone at all costs, regardless of their views on women or people of color, whether they have experience or if that person has fact-based, specific plans to improve the country.

To be fair, I have been asked once about why Americans would want Hillary Clinton as president. It was a taxi driver in Belgium, who felt Clinton was a liar and had too many ties to Wall Street.


However, I will say almost all the people I speak with are appalled that Trump is even an option.

And those folks aren’t just from Norway, they span the globe: Portugal, China, Brazil, Syria, Poland, France, Philippines, Australia, Somalia, Russia, the list goes on and on.

Being the only American in the bunch usually involves some “Trumpsplaining.” Over the months it’s grown from getting questions from my friends to getting questions from strangers:

In the grocery store when someone hears my accent:

“Are you American?”
“Are you voting for Trump?”

From a random parent on the soccer field:
“So what is up with this Trump guy? Americans don’t really like this guy, do they?”

In Norwegian class, my teacher began talking about elections, and the whole class turned to look at me with bemused faces. The teacher then asked if I was a Trump supporter, and all I could really do is shrug my shoulders and shake my head. (My Norwegian is still pretty limited.)

Something similar happened to my 9-year-old at school. Each week, his class watches a child-friendly version of the news, and when it shows clips of Clinton or Trump, the kids all gawk at him. One time a kid came up to Logan after the newscast and asked: “Do you support Hillary?”

A couple months ago, I had grown tired of having the same conversations over and over again about Trump, so I decided to switch it up. When someone would ask my thoughts about him, I’d enthusiastically declare: “I think he’s great! I’m voting for Trump!”

The reactions of shock and awe were well worth having more conversations about the guy.

‘People…Are Very Scared’

But all jokes aside, most of the people I speak with are very scared about what the world will look like with him as the next U.S. president. They worry about more terror attacks, economic instability and more unrest when it comes to race and class in the States.

Another interesting point some have raised is about Republicans who have distanced themselves from Trump.

Many of them supported Trump when he said Mexicans were drug dealers and rapists, called for a ban on Muslims, and the slew of derogatory comments he’s made toward others all along the campaign trail.

However, all that changed when Republicans heard Trump’s misogynistic comments about women in that 2005 recorded conversation with Billy Bush. After Trump was heard yukking it up and bragging to Bush about grabbing women’s genitals, endorsements were yanked and the stern condemnations came rolling in.

Some people here across the pond wonder, isn’t what Trump said about Mexicans, Muslims and others just as bad? Why was the 2005 conversation the thing that seemingly gave Republicans the final push away from Trump?

From outside of the U.S., it looks like it’s OK to be racist, anti-gay and sexist, but Trump only really crossed the line when he got caught having that lewd conversation.

It’s a good question with no easy answers. Its complicated explanation is woven in America’s history and the country’s multi-layered views about race, religion, gender and class.

I am still proud to be an American, but I am embarrassed at the hate and vitriol that’s being spewed nonstop in this democratic process to choose the next leader of the free world.

I just hope after tomorrow, no matter who wins, we make an honest effort to be better to each other and for each other.

(Photo credit: Marie Kanger Born /

Melanie Coffee is a freelance journalist in Oslo, Norway, and founder of She'

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