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I’ve been really, really, REALLY quiet lately.  I’ve had some fun adventures, but I’ve not felt bubbly and exuberant enough to give credit to Halloween at the consulate, a tea walk tour, or a few really cool trips.  Mostly, because I’m trying to be a Good Expat.  Then there’s that nasty thing called the Hatch Act, which makes me nervous and err on the side of keeping my mouth shut.  Finally, there’s the issue of friends and family – I don’t, as most everyone else, agree with all of them, and I really like them and don’t want to piss anyone off.  Well, not most of them – some of them, sadly, I’ve lost this election year when I got one too many nasty comments on my Facebook feed or saw one too many posts denigrating women, minorities, or common sense.

Again, I need to start with a disclaimer.  Or two.  First, this is typed on my own personal computer, on my own personal time, and no government resources were used in writing this post.  Second, I’m not the diplomat!

OK, then.

Let me be clear:  this election has been really, really difficult for me.  I’ve seen elections come and go, and several come and go from abroad, but none of them has ever had the amount of vitriol, hatred, partisanship, and yes – INSANITY – that this election has.  It comes at a time when we’ve seen minorities, including women, persons of color, and LGBTQI individuals in civic and public life at unprecedented levels.  It also comes at a time when there is still a lot of discrimination against minorities and we’ve got a long way to go, and some of us are pretty pissed off we’re still having this conversation.  It’s been a year of women calling out men on sexist Olympic coverage, of more unarmed black men being killed by law enforcement, and more threats to reproductive rights and personal freedoms by religious fundamentalists who seem to forget about that little separation of church and state thing, and attacks agains Muslims and other religious minorities.  I’m sure I’m missing something, but it’s been a sad tone all year.  The left has had quite a bit to rile it up this year – with good reason.

On the other side, and one that I can certainly understand as a native West Virginian, are who I will call the Angry Non-Urbans.  Remember how Romney said that 41% of the country could be written off?  Well, let’s be honest – there are a lot of people in “fly over country” who feel that they have been by the left, and frankly, there’s plenty of evidence to support that.  Before you go pointing to a bunch of statistics on job creation or benefits paid, take a good hard look at yourself.  Ever made a redneck joke?  Said that “those people” are “white trash”?  Made every effort you possibly could to distance yourself from that little hometown you grew up in because it was “provincial” or “backwards” as you ran like Hell to the big city?  I can’t tell you the number of people I have run into over the course of my life who have felt it’s perfectly fine to make West Virginia jokes, comment about how I probably married my brother, or ask me if I have indoor plumbing.  Some of those jerks even worked for me or DiploDad, and said such things at public events.  Every time I take one of those stupid Facebook quizzes that guess where I’m from, they automatically place me from an urban coastal area when I say that I’m well-traveled or like to visit museums or often watch films in a foreign language.  Because, culturally, educationally, and yes – OVERALL, if you are an Angry Non-Urban (or hail from that area), you’re inferior.  That’s the underlying message.  That’s a whole other post though, so I’ll shut my trap on that front and stop right now, but if you can answer “yes” to any of my questions above, you might want to think a little bit more about whether or not you’re including every single American in your whole “love thy neighbor” philosophy.

I’m also conflicted because in complete honestly, I am not thrilled about Hillary Rodham Clinton.  There, I said it.  Sorry, Pantsuit Nation, but I don’t share your unbridled enthusiasm.  I recognize that she’s qualified.  I recognize that misogyny has been part and parcel of this campaign from Day One.  But I have questions and concerns, and I think I’m well within my rights to have them without being called a traitor to my gender.

Then there’s Donald Trump.  I don’t even know where to start on that one.  I guess I could start by saying that he’s crude.  Or that he’s sexist.  Or that he’s stoking racism and hate the way no one has publicly gotten away with since, oh, the 1940s.  Every single time I thought I couldn’t hear anything worse, he said it.  Every time I thought he could sink no lower, insult no one else, or be more vulgar, he did it.

For the first time ever, I’ve had to completely remove “likeability” from a political election.  I don’t “like” either candidate.  But I also think that we went a bit too far when we started asking voters who they’d rather have a beer with as a way of implying that’s whom they should vote for.

I know where I stand on the issues of foreign policy, women’s rights, Black Lives Matter, immigration, fiscal policy, reproductive rights, LGBTQI rights, and a whole host of other topics.  I know which candidate represents my views, and I will vote for that candidate.

But somehow, even more important this time, and especially poignant to me as an American abroad, is the message America will send to the world with this election.  And I’m really scared.

At a diplomatic event I attended earlier this year, a third-country diplomat asked me about the U.S. presidential election.  I groaned and pointed to my watch, informing him it had only taken seven minutes since I arrived for someone to bring it up.  But we’re interested in your elections, he informed me, and do you know the reason he gave me?

“Where America goes, the world follows.”

Tomorrow is election day.  Don’t fuck this up, America.