No, Moving to a Foreign Country Won’t Help



During this contentious election cycle, many state-side friends have said that they will move to a foreign country if Trump gets elected. Some of them are sincere when they say it. It won’t help. You can run, but you can’t hide. You will still feel bruised and battered by this unprecedentedly ugly election.

In the past, we could disagree in a civil manner. Our presidential debates were usually snooze fests with mediocre viewership. This year, the election became a reality show, full of insults, tweets, one-liners and misinformation. I shudder to think that any high school debater watched the debates and thought these were appropriate debating techniques. How did we fall so low that the two major candidates for President of the United States traded insults on par with dimwitted elementary students and couldn’t manage to shake hands? And while I think about 92% of the rude comments came from Trump, the times that Clinton stooped to his level made me cringe. Is this really how the American voters want their President to act?

And what about Clinton supporters? Yes, we are appalled that Trump is the Republican candidate and has a good shot at winning this election. But how about keeping our discourse at a proper level? It’s hard, of course, when Trump defrauds millions with his fake university, insults broad classes of people, and speaks of grabbing women by the pussy, but why stoop to his level? Often I read articles bemoaning Trump’s bullying comments only to read the anti-Trump comments that appeared to channel the man himself in crudeness and lack of intellect.

Make no mistake, I am not suggesting keeping quiet or refraining from respectfully disagreeing with those who think differently than you. But as a whole, this election seems to have brought out the most ugly things about America: our resentment, bigotry, callousness, entitlement and crudeness. When you move to a foreign country, you become an unofficial US ambassador. I have had countless conversations with non-Americans asking me what the hell the problem is with our country. It’s a terrible feeling to have to acknowledge that racism, misogyny, and hate seem to be the driving factors for many voters in this election.

When Matt and I became ex-pats, we didn’t do it because we disliked the USA. However, as with most people of privilege, we were ambivalent toward what we had. We took for granted our rights of free press and free speech, our judicial system based on due process and our fair elections. Living in two other countries has been an eye opener. In both, the press is restricted and one cannot criticize the President. We have seen governments that suppress news, including that regarding potential natural disasters, and change constitutions and laws to suit their ends. We witnessed a local election when the frontrunner was imprisoned by the incumbent government with no charges brought. We experienced a government that increased sales tax by 2%, restricted the money one could send abroad without a 5% surcharge paid to the government and placed an additional 3.5% tax on wages to pay for earthquake relief because of inadequate reserves. Until about 4 months ago, we were walking around proud to be Americans. It was as though we finally understood why the USA is the super power it is.

Now I question just how great the USA is. If we have so much as a country, why are many acting so terribly toward one another? What on earth are people afraid of? What do they think they lack? It is profoundly depressing to me to think that as a country we have not moved forward since the civil rights movement of the 60s. It is disturbing to see the distortion of facts and reality in the press, or outlets that currently pass as press. And it is downright horrifying to think that our 200+ year history of peaceful transfers of power may be challenged by a losing candidate.

You can move to a foreign country after the election, but it won’t help. You will still be an American.


Peruvian Elections Update

I previously posted about the election process in Peru. The elections were held on Sunday, October 5 while we were in Cusco. We had hired a driver for the day and in the late afternoon he asked us if we minded if he stopped at his polling place so he could vote. Of course, we said it was no problem (in particular given that both Carl and I were on the Wisconsin State Elections Board at one time). He made it just in the nick of time and was relieved that he didn’t have to pay the 150 soles ($54) fine.

A friend of mine in Cajamarca took the following pictures from the polling site. The first is the outside of the municipal ballot that is signed by the “table head” at the polling place, the second is the regional ballot, and the third is her national id, with a sticker that shows she voted and her ink-stained finger. Due to the high level of illiteracy, the ballot has the candidate photo and party symbol, in addition to his or her name. Ballots can be marked with a + or X over the selected candidate’s picture or party symbol.

In Cajamarca, the Regional President incumbent won with 49.9 % of the vote despite being incarcerated on corruption charges since June. He is anti-mining, which gives him a strong majority among the farmers and country folk in the Cajamarca region. His supporters believe that the corruption charges were trumped up in order to cause him to lose the election so the Conga mine project could move forward without his opposition. Others see the vote as a stall to progress and jobs for the area.

I honestly have no opinion on the election or the candidates. As a guest in Peru, I do not understand enough of its history or all of the issues to hold an opinion (odd for me, I know).

Election Day in Peru

Today regional and municipal elections are being held across Peru. Peru has 24 departments, or regions, and one constitutional province, Callao. 24 Regional Presidents will be elected (Lima does not have one as it is the site of the national government) and many mayors and other local officials. Cajamarca has seen intense campaigning for several months due to competing beliefs about allowing a new gold mine in the region. This mine has been in the works for several years and was the subject of violent clashes between local farmers and the government in 2011 and 2012 and has been on hold since that time. Cajamarca has the largest producing gold mine in the world but is the poorest region in Peru. This fact and the environmental and social issues associated with the mine make for a difficult situation. Gregorio Santos Guerrero (“Goyo”) (Mas party) is the current Regional President of Cajamarca and the favorite to win. He has been in prison on corruption charges since June. He is a vocal opponent of the mine and can be elected despite his incarceration. If Goyo wins, the Regional Vice-President for the Mas party will assume the Regional President role until Goyo gets released.



Campaign signs are everywhere. Due to the lack of literacy in Peru, the campaign signs often focus more on the symbol of the party than they do on the candidates themselves. I have identified 19 parties with a candidate in the Cajamarca elections: A, K, T, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, Tree, Bull, Sombrero, Mother and Child, House, MÁS, Faucet, Star, Flower and Wheat. I tried to research what party went with what symbol but could find information for very few on them on the internet.

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It is fascinating to see the signs competing for space on a single building. I always felt irritation when a neighbor had a modest yard sign of the party I opposed. There is little modest about these signs and I wonder what they do for neighbor relations.

When the signs first started appearing, we were confused: were parties running on platforms against trees, sombreros or mothers and children? Was there massive anti-campaigning with dirty tactics?

Matt asked a co-worker who explained that the signs are telling voters which symbol to mark. Oh. Then the signs started showing up saying “Marca Así” (“Mark Like This”) or having a disembodied hand with a pen, and it became more apparent.

There also are cars and trucks driving around with signs and flags supporting parties. Sometimes these vehicles are blasting political propaganda from loudspeakers. We also had several political rallies in the Plaza de Armas and the fairgrounds in Baños. Active campaigning is not allowed 48 hours prior to an election, so things became much quieter then.

I came across this on a walk.



Apparently, someone at this house changed his or her mind.

Fun Peruvian Voting Facts:

#1 Voting is obligatory in Peru for citizens between the ages of 18 and 70. A voter who fails to vote is assessed a fine depending on the economic level of his or her local community. The fine can range from 20-150 soles ($7.20-$54) and must be paid before the person can engage in other civic activities (get a license, pay municipal utilities etc.). Voting percentages are much higher than in the US – in the mid-to-high 80 percentiles.

#2 Voters vote in their municipality, but not necessarily near their home. My Spanish teacher and her husband vote at two separate locations despite living together.

#3 Voters must present their IDs, which are obligatory for Peruvian citizens to carry at all times. The voter’s name is found in the poll book and then the voter receives a ballot which he or she marks, folds, and places in the ballot box (these are ultimately hand counted). The voter returns to the table, signs and places a fingerprint next to his or her name in the poll book, dips his or her finger in ink to show voting occurred and then receives his or her ID.

#4 Voters are assigned at random to be uncompensated poll workers (miembros de mesa). The fine for failing to appear to work is higher than the fine for failing to vote. If no one who is assigned to work the table appears, the first voters in line will be conscripted into duty. For this reason, many people arrive a little later in the day to vote or mill around the area to make sure the polling place is manned before getting in line.

#5 Every polling place has a member of the army or local police force on duty. This is to ensure order and no ballot tampering. Apparently Shining Path used to disrupt elections as part of its terrorist techniques and for other parties, stealing ballots was the easy way to steal an election.

#6 Peru is dry – no alcohol sales – for 48 hours before the election and the day of the election (always a Sunday). Talk about ruining a weekend!

It is odd to be in the midst of such relentless campaigning and to have no opinion or voice in the election. It will be interesting to see the outcome of this election and the repercussions in Cajamarca as a result.