Humor in a Historical Election

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trump1I hadn’t had much interaction with an other until I was sitting in a little Italian restaurant with a peculiar name in Milan, Italy – La Mongolfiera, or The Hot Air Balloon in English, where my travel companion and I were spending our weekend away from Castle Well in Limburg, a southern province in The Netherlands. We were the only English speakers in a sea of a beautiful romance languages, and trying to order dinner proved to be rather difficult. There was precisely one other English speaker in the room. The maitre d, dressed in a light blue sweater and khaki pants (far more casual than his counterparts in black ties and button-down shirts), left his position of greeting customers at the door to help take our order. We tried to use as little English as possible to be polite – we wanted to not feel like tourists for once – and it wasn’t until the end of our meal when I think he finally picked up on our strong, vastly different accents.

“And where are you from?” Antonio asked.

“America.”

“Ah,” he said with a raise of his eyebrow. And, to our surprise, “Trump?”

In our small town of Well – closer in distance to the German border than to Amsterdam – we aren’t asked about our political beliefs often, unless in the dining hall discussing the impending election with friends. (You don’t get the chance to talk to many Dutch people when you spend the majority of your time with the eighty four other Americans who traveled to The Netherlands with you.) Little did we know this would be the first of many times we would encounter this question.

We quickly shook our heads and laughed off the assumption. “No, definitely not.”

His face brightened as he laughed and reached for a high five. We left the restaurant that night with a new travel plan: when asked where we’re from, the answer should always be “Canada.”

When Donald Trump announced his run for presidency back in June 2015, I really didn’t think anything of it. After all, it was comical! There was no way that the former host of the reality television show The Apprentice or the former owner of Miss USA pageants would ever come close to becoming our next president. And now, nearly a year and a half later, here we are: Donald Trump is our 2016 G.O.P. nominee.

Arguably, coming to Europe in the midst of this U.S. presidential election is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Not only am I able to escape the political turmoil back home, but I’m also able to gauge how strikingly different the Netherlands view what’s going on back home.

Even from the briefest of glances at Mr. Trump’s official website, it’s concerning that the only thing we’d be able to expect from a Trump presidency is uncertainty. In 1987, Trump identified as a Republican, but in 2000, Trump sought the election for the Reform Party. From 2001 to 2008, he was a Democrat, but endorsed Republican John McCain for president. And finally, in 2011, Trump had a brief stint as an Independent for several months before returning to the Republican party where he has vowed to stay.

Sure, Trump is the punchline of most political jokes as of late, but that doesn’t mean Americans aren’t apprehensive of the future. A quick Google search will lead you to nominees’ backgrounds, contradicting polls, and absurd quotes, pictures, and social media rampages. But I think the scariest part of this whole thing is that Trump still leads a faithful group of supporters.

Let’s compare media coverage of the U.S. presidential election in the Netherlands and in the States through online forums. The popular Dutch website De Telegraaf is the largest daily Dutch newspaper in the country, covering both domestic and foreign stories, and it’s not shy of Trump commentaries. In fact, the most recent news story is entitled “Donald Trump is suing women” which is a perfect example of just how important Trump’s policies are here in the Netherlands and just how much he’s taken seriously.

Similarly, the largest newspaper in the U.S. is The Wall Street Journal where the most recent Trump story is titled “RNC Fundraising Rate Picks Up in Final Weeks.” In American media, Donald Trump is still portrayed as a serious candidate in this election despite absurd accusations like “I could shoot people, and I wouldn’t lose votes” or “I think Islam hates us.” If you ever need a good laugh, just Google Donald Trump quotes and I promise you, you won’t be disappointed.

But, why is this? Culturally, what does this mean? I think the answer could be tolerance. Dutch policies are among the most liberal in the world on a variety of topics: euthanasia, soft drugs, prostitution. Same-sex marriage has been legally recognized by the government since 2001, over a decade before it was even considered in the States.

According to Fox News, Hillary Clinton leads Trump by only three points – roughly equivalent to the possible margin of error of polled voters, and both candidates are still fighting for the votes of swing states. As much as we don’t want to admit it, this is going to be a close election.

Perhaps it’s the fact that the Netherlands are, in many ways, years beyond their time that they find our country so comical. Because that’s exactly what this is: pure, raw comedy. In America, we laugh out of uncomfortableness. In Europe, they laugh because this is absurd.

Jenna Lennon

Jenna Lennon

Avid selfie taker. Current writer. Future crazy dog lady.

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