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American Nightmare

Why I can't help but think of skipping town

By Molly L. Roberts, Crimson Staff Writer

Our last day in London was cold and wet. Still, I didn’t want to leave.

It’s not just the tea there (much better), or the number of streets and landmarks referenced in T.S. Eliot poems (much higher). It’s not the way things don’t go wrong in the United Kingdom but instead “go pear-shaped”—and, when they go just right, “Bob’s your uncle!” It’s not even the hats.

Though England’s charming conventions, tasty treats, and huge amount of history endear its capital to me, they’re not enough. In fact, the real reason my spring break trip made me more serious than ever about hopping across on a semi-permanent basis has less to do with where I’d be going to than where I’d be coming from: As much as I’m an Anglophile, I’m worried I’m also starting to become an Ameriphobe.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the United States, from the national anthem to baseball to listening to the national anthem before watching baseball—which, embarrassingly enough, always gets me teary-eyed. Cricket and “God Save the Queen” could never do it for me. And forget monarchies; our system of democracy fascinates me so much I used to carry a copy of the Constitution in my pocket.

Washington, D.C. looks nothing like Maine, which looks nothing like Nevada, which looks nothing like the Californian coast. The people across the country are as varied as the landscape, not only in the nation’s biggest cities. That’s a sign of something else: Being American, to most people, often means being a whole mix of things, and it never means looking just one way. For all the United States’ problems—and there are lots of problems—the inclusive concept at the country’s core holds up.

But when Donald Trump promises to “make America great again,” he’s tearing down the very things that make America great already. Under the guise of countering political over-correctness, he’s not only throwing civility out the window but also channeling a kind of bigotry the U.S. hasn’t seen in the political mainstream for generations. The melting pot, in Trump’s America, would turn into a boiling pot, and the very people the nation was built to welcome would get poached.

The Constitution isn’t safe, either. Trump’s not alone in stomping all over it: The Republican Senate has vowed not to confirm any nominee President Obama puts forth for the Supreme Court vacancy—not even the centrist he’s chosen for the nod.

Even if Trump doesn’t win the Republican nomination, much less the general election, droves of Trumpeters have made their way to the ballot box over the past few months. The xenophobic, authoritarian culture Trump has produced and promoted is potent, and it’s terrifying. Up against this America, a life of buttered scones and crumpets looks particularly rosy.

And this is coming from someone who, compared to some, doesn’t have a lot to lose under a Trumpian regime: Trump is no feminist, but most of the time, the hate he spews isn’t directed at me. I doubt I’m the only one itching to escape, and I suspect many of the others have stronger grounds to fear what’s happening at home.

Maybe I’m being cowardly. Maybe running away from America’s problems is just as bad as running away from my own. In the end, some combination of inertia, obligation, and that stubborn love of baseball will probably keep me in town. But for soon-to-be graduates and other 20-somethings who do decide to get away, the years before they’ve really settled down should be an easier time than any to pack up. It’s not so unreasonable a choice for young Americans who, in a country that day by day looks less and less like America, are starting to mind the gap.

Molly L. Roberts ’16, a former Crimson editorial chair, is an English concentrator in Cabot House.

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