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On the Election, my Identity and Place as a Global Citizen

On the Election, my Identity and Place as a Global Citizen


If you are angered by the expression of progressive political thought, you may want to stop here.

I have, until now, chosen to keep my political views largely out of the realm the series “The Peregrine Dame.” Although regular viewers with a keen eye can glean much about my preferences and ideology from what I present in the show and how I present it, I have, until now, not answered viewers directly when one or two have asked my opinion about this election cycle. I have chosen to let my work represent me and let people take from it what they will. I have no doubt that some viewers will read this and quit watching TPD. I anticipate a decline in the number of social media followers of the show and that’s unfortunate, because those viewers are precisely who I wish to appeal to. For that matter, I expect some people who know me personally to end our relationships because of my stance.

I am addressing the issue now because travel, real travel, in the words of public television colleague Rick Steves, is a political act. At its very core, meaningful travel is not about seeing sites and collecting photos. It is, in essence, a political statement regardless of whether you think of it that way.

For me, the action of traveling represents my curiosity about the world I live in and my place in it, along with that of my country. It reflects my desire to understand how we all fit together as one race on a little blue planet. The action of traveling shows that I will not succumb to demagogues in the United States who tell me that the world outside its borders is out to get me. I will see whether that’s true for myself. And I have seen that it’s not out to get me. I have tried to show you that, too.

Let me be clear: Hillary Clinton was not my first choice. I voted for Bernie Sanders in the California primary and was disappointed to see him lose the Democratic Party nomination. I have spent much time in countries with strong social national programs, which, combined with low or no levels of corruption, are assets to a society. I have seen that kind of system work to its citizens’ benefit. My views are influenced by many years of firsthand experience. To be sure, I have also spent time in countries with authoritarian governments and communist governments. I have seen that those systems are in practice not beneficial to a society no matter how intriguing they may seem in theory.

All of which is to say it is well-nigh impossible for a person on either end of our political spectrum to travel the world and not have it at least challenge some of one’s views. It is improbable that a person with extremely leftist views travel extensively and immersively and not see that communism is bad for people on a grassroots level, or that a far-right conservative do the same and still feel that some measure of robust social programs such as health care, social security, and education aren’t beneficial. That is why I created TPD for an American audience, to present these ideas in a personally accessible way. It has been my professional aim to show people that the world outside is not the big bad wolf, that we are, like it or not, all connected in myriad ways and that there is no reason to fear being a part of the global community. Which is why the results of this election have been extraordinarily gut-wrenching.

After spending so many years delivering the message that we have an obligation to travel to be a part of the global community, rather than shun it, it has been difficult to see such a large swath of the voting public endorse nationalistic, ethnocentric supremacy with so much gusto.

I did not vote for Hillary Clinton so much as I voted to endorse a political platform that includes protection of the freedom of the press because after I write this piece, I will return to my books to study so that I can complete the journalism degree which I have been working on for some time. I cannot endorse a candidate who has vowed to destroy the First Amendment by proscribing the constitutionally protected rights of a free press, no matter how wonky that profession has become.

I did not vote for Hillary Clinton so much as I voted for a platform that aimed to preserve the civil liberties of people who mean very much to me: my friends of color, my friends within the LGBTQ community, my friends with children who have disabilities, my friends who are women and those who have daughters. I voted to preserve the safety and dignity of my friends who are immigrants, who, in Los Angeles, are many—my classmates who wear hijab. Most of the people I am closest to fall into more than one of the above categories. I cannot support a president who has freely admitted to sexual assault. I cannot send the message to my friends’ daughters that a man has the right do what he pleases to their bodies and it’s simply boys being boys—no big deal. I cannot support a president who has been endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan. It concerns me deeply that he has so successfully whipped up and exploited feelings of white nationalistic supremacy, praying on vulnerable, fearful people and playing to those fears with such precision. Those who have studied Hitler’s methods, as well as other dictators through history see the parallels. Step one, tap into national unrest, disillusionment, and fear. Step two, find scapegoat. For Hitler, Jews were the convenient targets, for Trump, it is immigrants and refugees. Step three, proscribe that group’s civil and human rights to prove to the base that something is being done. It’s textbook, along with the proscription of free press.

I cannot support a commander-in-chief, who as a candidate, ridiculed veterans, POWs, and said he knew more than generals. I have too many friends and relatives who have served, male and female, straight and gay, lesbian, and those of color—all proud to have worn the uniform.

Most importantly, I did not vote for Clinton so much as I voted for a platform that strives to protect our environment and beneficial regulation of industry. The problem of the increased rate of naturally-occurring climate change due to our human activity is the world’s most dire problem. Within that context, all other issues, economic or political, pale in comparison. The wars humanity will fight over access to clean water will make the wars we have fought over oil look like barroom brawls by contrast, unless we keep pushing, harder than ever, for clean renewable energy. In the course of filming the show, I have stood in locations around the world where life has already been lost because of more and more severe natural disasters due to the increasingly erratic nature of, well, nature. I cannot endorse a president who has tapped a climate change denier to lead the transition of administrations for the Environmental Protection Agency. I cannot support a president who has said that he will withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement on climate action and revive fossil fuel. I know many of you have problems that are more pressing to you, but nothing else will matter, nothing, if we move backward on environmental protection. Simple survival will be our most pressing problem, and not sometime in an undefined future.

I voted for a philosophy of foreign policy based on the knowledge that we cannot isolate ourselves as a country from the rest of the world. We do not exist in a bubble. Because I have been out in the world, I have a broad, inclusive view of it and of humanity. I am not a Pollyanna and I will never tell you that everything’s warm and fuzzy out there; it’s not. But a strict foreign policy of exclusion of bad actors and unilateral decision-making does not work in the long term. It only hurts everyday people like you and me in those countries who are crushed by economic and diplomatic exclusion. I voted for the excellent groundwork done by Secretary Kerry to continue. Whether it’s reaching out to Cuba, Myanmar, or Iraq, it must be done, though it’s extraordinarily difficult and unpopular. Long-term sanctions and military action without exhaustive diplomatic action don’t work for the long haul. They may have a short-term effect the United States likes, but we have to think of the long game. I have tried, again and again, to show my viewers that through one-on-one interaction with people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, and nationalities that we can affect and destroy erroneous preconceptions of others and exercise grassroots diplomacy. I cannot endorse a president who has damaged the reputation of the country in the eyes of other intelligent, rational world leaders.

I did not vote for Clinton so much as I voted for progressive domestic policy including fixing a minimum wage that allows people to have an adequate standard of living, making sure that we join our peer countries in offering paid family leave, preserving social security, and making a public college or vocational education something that anyone who wants it can afford. I voted to uphold The Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. I voted to uphold the Affordable Care Act and encourage my elected officials to fix it where it needs to be fixed. I have healthcare coverage today because of the ACA. I was born with pre-existing conditions that meant my mother was unable to get coverage for me and the four operations I underwent as a child. I cannot support a president or a party that wants to immediately repeal the legislation that allows me and 22 million others in this country access to reasonable health care that we could not get before.

I voted for a philosophy of economic development that acknowledges macroeconomics and creates a sustainable plan for training a workforce that has been displaced because of job losses that will never return. I cannot support a president who tells people he will give them their jobs back when those jobs will never come back. It’s one thing to work toward bringing jobs back that have been moved to other countries; it’s another to tell a jobless worker in manufacturing or mining that he or she will have their job back when their job wasn’t outsourced, it went away completely due to technological innovation and automation and will never, ever return. It is cruel and predatory to make those promises. Admittedly, the Democratic Party failed those people by not presenting that reality broadly enough and making sure to let those people know that its platform included plans for funding education and retraining for anyone wanting a new career, especially in renewable energy. We failed them by not making it crystal clear that those kinds of job losses have nothing to do with politics, that’s macroeconomics and no politician can bring that work back.

I know that some of you reading this right now are people who have been in the show. You opened your homes, your lives, your stories, and your hearts to me. You live in all corners of the globe. I mean it sincerely when I tell you that I think of each of you often and remember the kindness and humanity that you’ve shown me, and through the show, that you’ve shown to the audience here in the United States. I know some of you are confused and perhaps worried. All I can tell you is that I intend to continue doing what I do so that I can bring more of that compassion and heart to viewers, to continue to tell your stories so that together we can continue to fight the fear and xenophobia that has become so acute here. Those dark feelings certainly have hold of many people in this country, but they don’t exist within us all. Certainly not in those of us who travel, we are better for having done it.

In compassion,

Rachel Parsons