I have never felt more American than I do right now.
Allow me to explain. Moving back to campus this fall signified more than just the start of my sophomore year; it marked my first anniversary of living in America. The evidence is right there on my United States passport: “Place of Birth: Japan.”
Until I came to Yale, Tokyo was home. But in the time since my move stateside, a lot has changed. In the spring, my Japanese visa expired. In the summer, I waited in the tourist line at customs to enter the country where I spent my childhood. Just weeks later, the man who started as a joke of a candidate was bathed in balloons onstage at the Republican National Convention.
I quip to my friends about how I am stuck in America now, but I am only half kidding. Election Day represents my first big opportunity to take ownership of my American identity, and the stakes have never been higher. The prospect of a Trump presidency makes my stomach do somersaults. This election is terrifying for me, as it is for so many others, in part because of its sheer absurdity.
But it is also pretty exciting. On Nov. 8, I get to assert myself as an American Adult. So do you. A professor of mine recently made a comment about “the strange liminal status of American college students.” At Yale, I sometimes feel like a little girl playing dress-up. My occupation is “student” and my job while I’m here is a pretty self-serving one. But this election — and the vote I will cast — really matters.
My status as an “international American,” if you will, means that my first instinct is to look at America from the outside. For instance, the rise of xenophobia in America is troubling, but the baseline level of tolerance is still ahead of the curve. The way my classmates simply assume that birthright citizenship exists across the globe indicates to me that the U.S. must be doing something right.
I sometimes catch myself talking about my peers, the candidates or the election issues they are discussing from a clinical distance. At the same time, in the last few months more than ever, I have been speaking and thinking about America with a new and urgent zeal that can only be attributed to the presidential race. Out of necessity, or maybe just fear, I care deeply about the United States. If my vote makes Hillary Clinton’s LAW ’73 presidency reality, it will strengthen my ties to America even further.
We have been doing this — arguing, laughing and fretting in equal parts about the 2016 presidential race — for over a year now. I do not expect to tell you anything you have not heard. Lately, it feels like everything has been said and everyone is tired.
But I would encourage you to do what you can to maintain a sense of perspective. We cannot let ourselves think of this election as normal. When did George W. Bush ’68 become the Republican Party’s voice of reason? What does it mean that a vice-presidential candidate lauds gay conversion therapy when same-sex marriage was legalized by the Supreme Court a year ago? What happens when a presidential candidate tells blatant lies? What happens when his supporters do not seem to mind?
It amazes me how malleable our understanding of normalcy is. It is easy to become desensitized to much of the behavior I would have been galled by until recently. My bar has been lowered, and that is a scary thought in and of itself. I came away from the first presidential debate last month and the vice-presidential debate this past week feeling almost numbed.
So, here we are. Two presidential debate down and one to go. After that, the election is all that is left. We are adults (whatever that means) and Americans. This matters: I am stuck here and so are you.
EVE SNEIDER is a sophomore in Morse College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .