The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

How the 2012 elections looked to a repatriated American who is now a digital global citizen

Global citizens follow the US elections closely; some even see American politics as a spectator sport. For today’s post, we asked Anastasia Ashman, an occasional contributor to the Displaced Nation, to tell us how she felt about the 2012 elections. An expat of many years and an active proponent of global citizenship, Anastasia recently repatriated, with her Turkish husband, to her native California.

Rather than drifting away from the American political process when I was far from my fellow citizens, it was during an expat stint that I became most deeply involved.

My involvement had a displaced quality, of course.

I have always been on the edges of the American experience, hailing as I do from the countercultural town of Berkeley, California. The first time in my life I owned and brandished an American flag was after 9/11. It felt like a homecoming after a lifetime of being the outsider.

Even now that I’m back in California, my political involvement continues to have a displaced quality because I know what it’s like to be a citizen on the front lines of our nation’s foreign policy. For most Americans, the issue of how the rest of the world perceives our country is distant, amorphous, forgettable — but not for those of us who’ve lived abroad.

Clark for President!

I’d discovered Wesley Clark on television after 9/11. A four-star general, he was talking about the world we’d suddenly plunged into like a polished, collected and thoughtful world-class leader. It was easy to feel a kinship with the philosopher general even though I’d grown up in a household that vilified the military. Instead of activist or escapist pursuits, I chose to join him in geopolitical chess.

During the months between September 2003 and February 2004 when Clark competed in the presidential primary to become the Democratic candidate, I campaigned for him from afar. My email inbox soon filled with security warnings from the U.S. Consul urging Americans to keep a low profile.

If I had been able to get my hands on a campaign poster back in 2003 and 2004, I wouldn’t have displayed it publicly in my Istanbul apartment window. We were invading Iraq, and Istanbul was the site of four al Qaeda-related terrorist bombings that November. Avoid obvious gatherings of Americans, the emails cautioned. No mention of red, white, and blue “Clark for Democratic Candidate” campaign posters plastered on your residence — I had to extrapolate that.

Instead, I became active in online forums and wrote letters to undecided voters and newspapers in numerous states for my choice, the former N.A.T.O. Supreme Commander Wesley Clark. That was all I could do.

Obama for Re-election!

I’ve now been back in the USA for a year and have followed this election cycle, like the last one, mostly via social media. Online is an ideal place to become disconnected from echo chambers you don’t resonate with, and to stumble into rooms you don’t recognize. Both have happened.

But for the first time in the American political process, I don’t feel displaced. I feel like I am right where I belong.

Maybe it’s the San Francisco environs, which, although they may not match my concerns, don’t rankle too badly. At least I’m not in Los Angeles being asked to vote on whether porn actors must wear condoms. (They should, obvs!)

I feel less displacement in this election because of the resonant connections I’ve made online in the last four years or more. I’m in open, deep geopolitical conversation with Americans, American expats and with citizens of other nations, all over the world.

During this election I’ve been using my web platform, my digital footprint, to gather political news and opinion, enter discussions, and raise awareness. I’ve been reconciling my patchwork politics by weaving together who I relate to, and what I care about, and what sources I pass on to my network and what conversations I start. I now know that I am

  • A woman from an anti-war town who campaigned for a general!
  • A Hillary supporter who’s backing Barack, and
  • An adult-onset Third Culture Kid who understands how and why Obama’s Third Culture Kid experience confuses the average American.

What I have chosen to share on social media during this election cycle is a processing of all that makes me a political animal. I feel I have participated in this election cycle as the whole me, and that is all I can do.

I’ve shared that I care deeply that

I am buoyed that these abominations are leaking out and being countered. I was edified to hear others share my disapproval of eligible voters who choose to throw their votes away.

I have been able to be an active digital world citizen during this election cycle, someone who votes for the bigger picture, not just at the ballot box, but in everything I do. And that feels like home to me.

ANASTASIA ASHMAN is the cultural writer/producer behind the Expat Harem book and discussion site. The Californian has been on a global rollercoaster: fired in Hollywood, abandoned on a snake-infested island off Borneo, married in an Ottoman palace, interviewed by Matt Lauer on the Today show. She brings it all home in the “Web 3.0 & Life 3.0” transformational media startup, empowering people to be more visible in the world and develop personally/professionally through social web technology. Get your copy of the Global You manifesto here.

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s account of the American election cycle from a British expat’s perspective.

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10 responses to “How the 2012 elections looked to a repatriated American who is now a digital global citizen

  1. Helena Halme November 8, 2012 at 7:43 am

    Even though I’m not a US citizen, never have been, and never will (although you should never say never…), I love visiting NYC and LA, and have been avidly following the elections. And I too am so relived and elated that Obama was re-elected. The alternative was just plain scary…! Great article, thanks for sharing your views.

    • Anastasia M. Ashman (@AnastasiaAshman) November 8, 2012 at 5:16 pm

      Thanks Helena.

      The huge wins for Democrats and liberals and realists in this election have surprised me. A LOT. And it makes me feel hopeful for the future.

      This clip from the Rachel Maddow show last night recaps how this election’s big wins for Democrats and liberals is good for America (and I would say, the world), and a wake-up call for conservatives and Republicans to join the process of suggesting solutions to real problems rather than “denying the factual, lived truth of the world.”

      Hope this embed works, if not, view the video here from 12:59

  2. ML Awanohara November 8, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    I’m of two minds on the issue of global citizenship. On the one hand, I can accept that the world is getting smaller and flatter (as NYT columnist Tom Friedman is wont to say) — certainly compared to how it was in my own expat days. On the other, as I’m up here at Columbia, I can’t help but notice that the latest research on transnational migrants suggests that displacement (whether forcible or by choice) is no easier than it ever was.

    Roger Waldinger, a UCLA prof who is giving a talk at Barnard next week on this very topic, says that

    while many point optimistically to a “death of distance” — wherein new and proliferating technologies supposedly bring immigrants ever-closer to their families — data shows that communications between migrants and their loved ones at home remain erratic and vulnerable.

    I would think that the same is true of political ties, which is why so many American expats don’t bother voting. As Kate mentioned in her post this week, a mere 7 percent of American expats voted in the 2008 election! And while some of Americans who live abroad avidly follow the election results, I suspect that they see it as something of a spectator sport — which is how the rest of the world sees it.

    I’m also not entirely certain that conservatives have received a “wake-up call.” Also up here at Columbia, the political scientist Brigitte Nacos has said: “Defeat does not weaken the tea party.”

  3. Adventures (@in_expatland) November 9, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    Enjoyed this Anastasia. As an American expat, people tell me things about the election as if I’m not keeping track when I’m probably more in tune than some/most of them! Why? Because it matters and I care. Simple as that.

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