As I stuffed my mouth with buttered popcorn, he hit me with that question.
“Who are you voting for?”
My normal knee-jerk reaction is to laugh awkwardly and change the subject while screaming internally, “It’s none of your damn business!”
This time, however, with my mouth full of popcorn and a persistent man now asking me, “Are you voting for Trump?” I was forced to bobble my head in one direction or the other until he was somewhat satisfied with my vague answer.
Listen Canadians, Americans hate that question.
It’s on the list of things you should never ask us, along with our weight, age and if we know who the Canadian Prime Minister is. While living here. I’ve had to answer many questions about gun control, the Confederate flag, police brutality, and America’s discomfort with national healthcare. As a political nerd surrounded by politically involved Canadians, I’ve grown accustomed to those conversations. However, talking about elections naturally feels a bit different, because they’re even more personal, emotional, and stressful as hell.
Unsurprisingly, the current presidential election has generated collective anxiety among Americans.
A friend of mine recently noticed that at this point four years ago, Americans were posting messages of “hope” and “change” on their social media, but now their feeds are full of drinking pictures and sarcastic memes: perfectly summing up where we’re at now.
If you are still hoping to engage your American friend, co-worker or stranger into a conversation about this horror-show despite the constant stress and disgust we’re feeling at this point, then here are some things to keep in mind.
Don’t ask Americans who they’re voting for.
Over the past two years, I’ve gotten the impression that asking someone who they’re voting for isn’t rude. Most Americans however, think this question is extremely disrespectful, and honestly, if you don’t know them well enough to make an educated guess as to who they’re voting for, then you probably shouldn’t be asking.
Don’t ever say this election is “entertaining.”
Sure, when this all started two years ago it was funny – an eccentric billionaire who perpetuated the birther conspiracy running against a dozen of other candidates no one wanted; and a former Secretary of State who happened to be the wife of America’s beloved and vilified adulterer running against a man who resembled everyone’s favorite elderly uncle. It was a fantastical circus that we were assured would end soon. But at this point, Americans are tearing their hair out wishing there was a ‘restart’ button.
It’s not entertaining, it’s terrifying.
Don’t ask us how we got here.
It would take dozens of Noam Chomsky books, a few hour-long lectures and a couple of beers for an American to take you through the laundry list of reasons our country is currently at the point it is now. Frankly, our educators and politicians haven’t explained it that well to us either, so don’t expect us to give you a succinct, thoughtful answer.
Do let me rant, when I want to.
Americans love to rant; it’s why we adore shows where real (and satirical) political pundits yell at us for 30 minutes about the “War on Christmas” every year. It’s sickly therapeutic, and sometimes we just have to let off a little steam. So if you bring up the election at dinner or at the office coffee machine and I don’t laugh awkwardly and start talking about the weather, then be prepared for a rant of epic proportions.
Do push me to vote.
Instead of asking Americans who they’re going to vote for, ask them the more appropriate question of if they’re going to vote at all. We’re less likely to internally hate you for it. Most of us understand that this election is a major deal and at some point its outcome will impact you, so we should be held accountable and you should pressure me to vote. That’s okay – but the second you start telling me who to vote for, then I’ll probably check-out and never talk to you again. (Sorry.)