OHIO - "Many times I end up in astonishment"

This article is the first in a special series in the run-up to the American elections. Flandersnews asked Flemings living in the U.S. to let their light shine on how they experience the presidential battle. In other words, it's the presidential battle through Flemish eyes! Today part 1: Erik Dauwen, writing us from one of the swing states 'par excellence', Ohio. (Tomorrow: "Hillary e-mailed me again" - Maxime Brulein from California).

Erik Dauwen is 64 and has been living in Ohio since 2015. A former Ohio exchange student, Erik visited most of the 50 American states. In Belgium, he worked as a director at Youth Start, a non-profit organisation focusing on giving youngsters new opportunities. He also acts as a judge at the commercial court.

"In 1971, I was an AFS exchange student to Ohio. Richard Nixon was the president. At the end of a fantastic year I became a little bit Americanized. I liked the country and loved its people.

I returned to the States many times. In 2014 I took a road trip through 38 states. It was a lovely time visiting family and friends. One year later we moved to the States since my wife was offered a job as Director of Pupil Services for a public school district.

Work or... golf?

When I entered the States in 2015 the immigration officer asked why I was coming to the States and if I was going to work here. I said “no … I’m waiting for my Green Card.”

The officer replied: “Well, we are giving out those Green Cards too quickly to foreigners anyway! And by the way, if you are only coming to play golf here you’d be better off to stay in Belgium and play over there because you are not contributing to the American economy!”

This incident illustrates very well the mentality of many Americans, which changed dramatically after 9/11, already 15 years ago. The open and welcoming country, built by immigrants, is now for a big part very drastically against immigrants.

Joke

The presidential candidate Donald Trump uses (abuses?) this sentiment very well. He suggests a complete halt to incoming immigrants, kicking out the millions of illegal immigrants and building a wall to keep out the Mexicans. At the same time, he insults the 13 other Republican candidates, the Muslims, the women, the men and women in the armed services and of course his rival for the Presidency: Hillary Clinton.

Hillary manages to delete 33,000 e-mails from her personal server which she was not supposed to use for national issues. Here and there bending the truth is something that Hillary is not afraid to do. But also Trump does this easily. The joke that is going around is that Trump will soon deny that he ever ran as president…

45,486 dollars per second

All these lies, all the personal insults and attacks and the very negative TV ads about the opponent are all things I don’t understand as a moderate Flemish person.

Many times I hear and read in astonishment the things being said. At the same time I don’t hear anything sensible about the important issues like the American economy, health care, the unemployment rate, the sky-rocketing consumer debt, all the young people who cannot pay back their college loans and the national debt of 22,000,000,000,000 (22 billion) which increases every second with 45,486 dollars!

None of these topics were discussed during the first Presidential Debate. Insults were going back and forth, difficult questions were avoided and the main focus was on saying that the other candidate was not fit or capable to become the President of the United States.

"I keep away from political discussions"

A lot of people do not know who to choose. “We have the choice between a bad candidate and a worse candidate…”

So, I’ve come to appreciate more our election system and the election ethics in Flanders and Belgium. No election system is perfect but now I feel sorry for the American voters. In the meantime I keep far away from the political discussions so I don’t offend and/or lose my new-found American friends…