Too much

That’s about the best I’ve got right now…it’s all just too much. Too much time has gone by since I’ve written anything here. Too much reading, discussing, worrying. Too much is happening in the world. Too much to process or to begin to understand. Too much distraction, though some of it welcome. Too much uncertainty, too much at stake. Here in Amsterdam, too much rain.

Everyone with an opinion and an internet connection has weighed in on the results of the US election, and what might happen next. Some of it has been honest, clear-headed, and helpful; some not. I don’t think adding my still-forming thoughts to the ever-growing body of commentary would benefit anyone. I will say that experiencing the election from overseas has been unexpectedly hard.

Weeks before the election, we planned to join friends at the Kurhaus Hotel in Den Haag for the traditional “Who’s the President?” Breakfast. Allowing for the time difference with the US, the party starts at 5am Wednesday with wall-to-wall CNN coverage and a buffet of bacon, eggs, and donuts. Lots of donuts. We had a lovely dinner the night before with our friends, complete with American flag table decorations. Total strangers approached us to express their concerns about the election and to ask who we voted for. We stayed overnight in the Kurhaus and I went to bed hopeful, but, (if I’m honest), worried.

The alarm woke us at 4:15 and we were in the ballroom by 5am, joining several hundred expats, military personnel, and some Dutch journalists. I took one look at the numbers on CNN and thought, “This is not good. It’s too close.” And the morning got worse from there. Over the course of the next few hours, it slowly dawned on everyone in the room (and most/many expats lean Democrat) that we were at the worst party ever. Inexplicably, there was a band at this event – five 20-somethings in suits playing standards and light jazz. I think we heard “The Girl from Ipanema” at least twice – a song I hate under the best of circumstances. I remarked to a friend that this must be what it felt like to listen to the orchestra play as the Titanic sunk.

Just after John Podesta told the Hillary supporters in New York to go home and go to bed, we called an end to our party, as well. Instead of going to bed, it was off to work (it was 8am, after all), where I had a day of commiserating with my 2 American colleagues, fighting with a Swedish coworker about vote rigging, and generally trying to make sense of America. Which I’ve been doing ever since.

Dutch people often ask us what we miss about America. Other than my family and friends, there’s really not much. It’s not like we live in rural China – most of what we want or need we can find here. (Although my dear husband does miss free refills on his Diet Coke.) But as we learn more about the plans of the President-Elect, I do miss being in the US, if for no other reason than to have something to DO, some collective action I can be part of. It is hard to know how to be effective from so far away. We are still homeowners and registered voters in Massachusetts, and we still have a voice. We can stay informed and be ready to act. We can make calls to our representatives – who are, thank God, progressive liberals like Elizabeth Warren, who are already doing what I’d want my reps to do.

But I can’t help feeling like I should be doing more. If I was in the US, my work or my friends or my church would offer opportunities for discussion, for protest, for action. Instead I feel a bit adrift, absorbing information and opinions, wanting to be useful but not sure how. (Suggestions welcome.)

In the end, I think we will need to get comfortable with “too much”.  In response to our worries we should offer each other too much support. In response to uncertainty there should be too much information, too much truth-telling. Threats to anyone’s civil rights or liberties should be met with too much protest. How I contribute to this from such a distance is unclear, but for now, may there be too much conversation, too much thinking, too much reading, too much solidarity.


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