My first and only real world experience of America was in 2010.
On my first time overseas, my ex-boyfriend and I dropped in on LA on the way to the ski fields in Canada. Full disclosure: I didn’t love it. LA is a harsh first introduction to being overseas to be fair; it’s unfriendly and touristy and yet completely not tourist friendly.
By contrast, I completely fell in love with Vancouver: it felt like home, but more beautiful. London feels like home, but more beautiful, and more scary and more unfriendly – and I love it. But I don’t think I’ll grow to love LA.
So many of my friends, my current boyfriend included, love America. San Francisco, New Orleans, and of course, New York are obviously crowd favourites. I also encounter a few people who are disappointed that I didn’t love LA. Either way, I willfully acknowledge I need to give America another chance. I’m dying to go back to Canada, and beyond keen to start exploring South America – as far as safety goes, they’re probably at either ends of the scale. But where does America sit?
Logically, I know that the UK isn’t the safest place for me to be right now. This year has seen 4 terrorist attacks already. France hasn’t fared much better, and Belgium and Germany continue to be regular targets, and now of course Spain… I’m incredibly disappointed my global travel insurance doesn’t cover Turkey, and despite all the stories, I’m still dying to go to South Africa.
And in the midst of all this, the country I am afraid of the most is the United States. I want to go to South Africa and swim with sharks, jump off cliffs in New Zealand, and climb impossible mountains in Nepal. I want to marvel at giant mosques in Turkey, and get lost in the markets of Morocco.
But I’m petrified to walk down the street in America. Whenever my boyfriend brings up the US as an option for somewhere we could live, I am resolute. Not while their politics are like how they are now. Not while women are second class citizens. Not while black people are treated like something to be feared. Not while gun laws are non-existent, abortion is decided by a group of white men and contraceptives are considered a luxury.
I think what scares me the most about how tyrannical the US is now, is that it’s meant to be a progressive country. Sure, the UK has a conservative government too – as does Australia, and Germany – but I can still get contraceptives incredibly easily, plus STD screens, pap smears and abortions if I need it. A broken leg won’t financially cripple me, and a tooth ache is something that’s easily and (somewhat) affordably taken care of. The US has citizens who would rather die suddenly by a freak accident than face plunging their family into financial ruin.
What scares me is that those things aren’t available in America – the leading first world country. Why does this country, who claims to be the most developed and the biggest leader in the global world, not have things that other first world countries consider to be standard, conservatism or not? For an entire country to vote in an uneducated tyrant who considers women, POC and immigrants as second class citizens, a maniac who throws threats at other countries without a second thought is scary. Despite 8+ months of sheer lunacy from the leader of the free world, people still support him and that is terrifying. You have the wives, husbands and children of journalists being blatantly threatened as a result of your president’s rhetoric.
And now, you have literal Nazi’s walking the streets without fear. Gone are the days of the KKK hiding their identity, running around in hoods – these people have fearlessly marched down the streets espousing hatred, and beating on black people. The worst that’s happened to them so far is that some of them have lost their menial retail jobs, and one is astonished by the hatred he’s experienced at university from people he’s never met. (I don’t know if I can convey aggressive eye rolling in writing, but trust me, it’s there).
Americans will read this and think “Well fine, we don’t need her anyway,” but you do. Not me specifically, but you need tourists. Tourism in the US generated over $1.5 trillion in 2016 – what will happen to your economy if we stop coming? And, you need immigrants too. Your crops are already rotting in their fields, a sentiment shared by UK farmers. Hopefully the UK will learn from your mistakes before it’s too late.
If I, a white, educated, middle-class, skilled worker, who is (mostly) healthy (but still has pre-existing conditions), is scared to visit your country, what hope do you have? You’ll become an island unto yourself and you will fail. Scientists, engineers, doctors, nurses, marketers, hell – the people who pour your beers.
We are afraid of you. Why are you OK with that?
Are you still travelling to the US at the moment? Or are you there now? Tell me about it in the comments below!