The Morning After, an Ocean Away

American students in the Netherlands were greeted by a festive atmosphere, but weren’t feeling too festive later.

Editor’s note: While most of us at The Shinbone Star are indeed ex-journalists, one or two in our midst may provide a glimpse of journalism’s future.

When I left for my semester abroad in the Netherlands, I fully expected to return to a country boasting its first female president. Traveling only reinforced this belief. When I met new people, they’d ask, “Where are you from?” and after learning I was American, they’d give a nervous, knowing smile and ask, “Who are you voting for?”

“Not Trump,” I’d say, and they’d sigh in relief.

I’d then go on to assure them that Trump wouldn’t win. No one thought he would, if you remember. My history professor — a German, mind you, and fully aware of the implications he was making — called Trump “Orange Hitler.”

“You have nothing to worry about,” he told us the night of the election, and we believed him.

We stayed up together, all the students in the study-abroad program. The faculty bought us American snacks and even little flags to wave around. I go to an arts school based on the east coast: it was obvious who we were rooting for.

My friends and I left the party a bit early, so confident in knowing who would win. We started paying more attention when Trump started really getting the big states. At this point, overseas, it was past 4 a.m. on a school night, but we stayed pinned to our screen, repeating, “This is crazy” and “I can’t believe this is happening.”

I woke up the next morning and grabbed my phone, half expecting some sort of last-minute turnaround. Nope. President-elect Don — I turned off my phone and pulled the blanket over my head.

We had all joked before departure that if Trump won, we’d stay in the Netherlands. We’d hide out in the basement or the rafters, waiting out the next four years or so. Now that the moment I had joked about was upon me, I realized I didn’t want to hide away or run. I wanted to go home. I wanted to see my friends. It felt as if someone had died. We couldn’t join the protests, we couldn’t be a part of America from so far away, and it hurt.

“I am sorry,” my history teacher said to us. “I am so, so sorry. But I believe in your country. You are a good country. You will get through this. You have been through worse.”

After a day of sadness and disbelief, doodling political cartoons in the margins of my notebooks, the lot of us went to the local bar. We were in a small town in the south of the Netherlands, so we only had one choice of venue. We filled the place. The owner gave us a free round of shots, all of us.

We were done being sad.

Kids were slamming their fists against the tables left and right. My roommate told me there was talk on Facebook of a Women’s March. There were shouts of revolution. A girl plugged her iPhone into the speakers and blared Green Day’s American Idiot. A group of five or six were writing a manifesto. Many took full advantage of the free drinks, trying to get as cut off from the world as possible. The Muslim girl stayed in her dorm, worried about her mother.

I don’t know what people my age were doing in America the night after the election. But the small pocket of America we made that night in a small Dutch bar was full of angry energy, and preparing to fight.

“You know what?” my fellow journalist friend said after swallowing half his beer in one go. “They need us. Now is the time for us, for artists and journalists.”

Now is the time.

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