Monday, November 28, 2016

How Trump's presidency endangers American travelers abroad

This blog elsewhere talks about the increased danger aid workers from the USA will now face when working abroad, and many of these risks are the same for anyone traveling overseas. For instance, Trump has said he will reauthorize waterboarding and other forms of torture. This, coupled with his stated attitudes about Muslims, immigrants and refugees from Syria, has the potential to put people from the USA traveling overseas at risk, not just aid workers.

When I lived abroad from 2001 - 2009, and someone discovered where I was from, the European, Arab, Muslim, whomever I was talking to was almost always welcoming and warm. The vast majority of people did not judge me by the George Bush government nor my nationality. But that was a different time and circumstance: George Bush did not frequently threaten other countries with destruction and insult entire religions. He invaded Iraq and Afghanistan, which caused the deaths of many thousands of people, but there were also people in those countries that supported those invasions, and some neighboring countries that did as well. I worked in Afghanistan in 2007, and I made sure the Afghans I worked with knew my heart was in helping them, not bombing them - and everyone I encountered welcomed me (and many are still good friends).

By contrast to Bush, Donald Trump has been boisterous with his threats and insults and promises of human rights abuses and destruction. Therefore, if you are someone from the USA that is traveling abroad, that means you need to be even more cautious about to whom you reveal your nationality.

I did not wear anything that indicated that I was from the USA when I lived and abroad, and I did not volunteer my nationality unless I was asked directly. I strongly suggest you do the same.

If you are financially sound enough - privileged enough - to travel abroad, and people can tell you are from the USA by looking at you or hearing you, you can expect people to ask you about this election and how you voted. You have to decide how you are going to answer that. If you voted for Hillary Clinton, you will probably receive a warm reception; she is well liked and respected abroad in most (but not all) circumstances, and such a vote shows you do not support Donald Trump. If you did vote for Donald Trump, I strongly suggest you lie - except in Russia, where you will be embraced as a hero.

Distancing yourself on social media, including Facebook, from the policies and statements of Donald Trump could help you as you meet people from other countries, people deeply angered and further disempowered by Trump’s foreign policy. That doesn’t mean you post anti-Trump memes on Instagram or are ever obligated to say publicly whom you voted for. Rather, it could mean posting sometimes on social media of your support of and concern for Muslim Americans, Syrian refugees, people in Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, the Occupied Palestinian territories, human rights for immigrants, etc., and your condemnation of waterboarding, torture and any violations of human rights.

Another consideration is how the Trump presidency puts women at greater risk for harassment, at home or abroad. Again, as this blog about aid and development work notes. the incoming USA President has, by his statements and behavior, made it acceptable for anyone, including politicians and other government representatives, to rate women by their looks and to insult women reporters, politicians, artists and celebrities with most vile statements about their character, appearance – even their sexuality. It will be hard to demand such comments stop when the head of the most powerful country on Earth is saying the same.

Be careful out there. Don't assume that just because things have gone well for days or weeks they won't suddenly, and violently, go wrong. Keep your eyes and ears open, and get out of any situation quickly if there is even a hint it could turn sour. And have the number of your nearest embassy on your person somewhere at ALL times.

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