Tel Aviv: Some Electioneers Abroad

Tommy Collison
Tel Aviv can offer an escape from the hectic 2016 presidential election.

I mentioned in my first piece for this desk that I’m an international student studying abroad, which means I’m immersed in not a second, but a third culture. This foreignness is coming to the fore in the run-up to the American election. As an immigrant at a liberal arts university on America’s East Coast, it should surprise nobody that #ImWithHer. I’m from Ireland, where we elected our first female president in 1990, so I’m very excited for the United States to catch up. But I don’t have a vote, so the most I can do is share YouTube clips of Gary Johnson’s assorted Aleppo moments in hope of dissuading my one Libertarian friend from voting for a third party.

I’ve been watching the last week of the election season with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I’ve lived in the U.S. for the last few years and have grown fond of it, warts and all. It oscillates between loving and hating immigrants, but it’s comforting to know that for all Trump’s bloviating, we’re not hearing anything we haven’t heard in the past — before Mexicans were the subject of xenophobes’ ire, it was actually the Irish. Still, a lot of my friends are worried, and the possibility of a Trump presidency scares them in a way that the possibility of a Romney presidency back in 2012 did not. On the other hand, this isn’t my country, and my student visa expires in 2017, only a few months after the new president takes office. Add to this the fact that I’m spending the semester in Israel, some 6,000 miles from the White House. We’re largely insulated from the campaign ads, the 24/7 cable news channels and the live televised debates.

And so I watch the campaign limp toward its conclusion from afar. As Trump blusters about women, immigrants, Hispanics, the physically disabled and Muslims, I joke that spending a semester in the Middle East was a choice to live in a more politically stable region of the world. Some days it feels like less of a joke and more of a viable strategy.

As escapes from the world of American politics go, Tel Aviv remains a solid choice. The city hasn’t gotten the memo about winter, and temperatures remain in the 70s well into the evenings. Much of the culture in the Middle East revolves around companionship in its literal sense: people getting together and sharing a meal. I hope that, whatever the result of the election, Americans don’t lose sight of the fact that we are more than who we vote for and that the 45th president of the United States is a president for all Americans, not just the ones who elected them.

Email Tommy Collison at [email protected]

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