I had already started writing this newsletter before the U.S. presidential election was called. The first line was going to be something like, “Finally, I don’t have to write about the election this week!” and then I was going to talk about other pressing world issues. I was going to talk about the battle for Mosul and Turkey’s human rights backslide and maybe the rise of weed. And then I was going to make some jokes and link to some recipes.
But I can’t do that right now. I work with a number of extremely talented women, and when Hillary gave her concession speech on Wednesday, every single one of us cried. That’s the America I woke up to on Wednesday. A room full of strong, successful, female professionals crying in a dark room.
So here’s what we’ll do instead. We ran a series of dispatches from around the world during the election, and they brought to life for me the hopes and fears this election engendered. Unsurprisingly, they mostly started as hopes and ended as fears. Roads & Kingdoms’ Director of Photography, Pauline Eiferman, wrote one that I thought was particularly poignant, as it was her first time voting for president as a newly minted U.S. citizen.
I watched this election with my Dad, who, just a week ago, I had shown my first U.S. passport. It was still crisp and rigid—never used—and I remember how proud he was when he held it in his hands: I had finally become an American.
My family moved to the U.S. in 1999 and I hated it here. It took a long time and some important friendships to get through the strangeness that was moving from the suburbs of Paris to New Jersey. Sometimes I still hold my Dad responsible for how hard it was, and I’m sure he feels guilty. But I think the pride he felt when I showed him my passport erased most of that.
My dad’s father fled what was Austria-Hungary before the Second World War, only to be denounced by a neighbor a few years later when he was hiding in France. He went to the camps but he survived. In fact, he moved back to France, where he built a large family.
I never confronted my dad about why exactly he decided that my two brothers, my mother and I should move to the U.S. Maybe it was subconscious—France had betrayed his father. Maybe it was just the romantic notion of going far away and starting fresh in a country that was tolerant and inviting.
My 13 years here have taught me a lot about the United States. I have learned that it can be both accepting and violent, forward-thinking and retrograde, unforgiving, complicated, beautiful. I don’t hate it here anymore. It has become my home.
Seeing Donald Trump get elected was especially painful for all of these reasons. I had become a citizen just in time for this historic vote, and I was extremely proud to have my say in it. I had even texted both of my parents a photo of me with the “I Voted” sticker, to which they both replied, “bravo!”
But as the election results became clearer Tuesday night, my Dad and I exchanged fewer and fewer words. We drank wine and watched TV in disbelief. I’m sure that he thought about how ironic it was, that this was the first U.S. election two of his newly American children had voted in. I’m sure that he questioned a lot of the things he believed about this country, and about where we were headed.
That’s it for this week. Tomorrow, we return to our regularly scheduled programming of travel, politics, and food. Sign up for R&K insider here.