From How Close Up Does Mr. Trump Start to Look Good?

donald-trump-chinaRight now, nearly 7,000 miles separate me and one Donald Trump. I’d really have to squint to see him, to make out the golden waves of hair-like substance that sit matted on his head like a pile of lint might sit on my kitchen floor after I’ve swept. From this distance, the Donald looks small. He seems strange and pathetic and the tiny little fingers on his baby hands look like cocktail wienies.

This is the view from my porch in Beijing, China. Mr. Trump as viewed by an American liberal living abroad. From over here, it’s hard to make out any positive attributes that Trumpy might have. By the time his tweets and his self-congratulatory boasts of being able to “call” really bad things before they happen, by the time those reach my small expat community in Beijing, they sound ridiculous. We laugh at Trump. We criticise him. But all of our condemnations are done from a safe distance. There’s an ocean between us, and viewed from a space that great, it’s difficult for the detached onlooker to see Mr. Trump as anything more than comical and frightening.

Question #1: Would Trump become more, er, attractive, if viewed from closer up.

This is what I wonder. Maybe being in China keeps me away from the sheer magnetism of the man. Perhaps if I was back in America (as I will be two weeks from now), I could get caught up. The Trump Wave would pick me up and pull me out to the Trump Sea like a riptide.

Is that what Trump has? Momentum? Is he like the Grand Canyon, where one has to be there in person to truly grasp the greatness of it? I try to imagine that. I try to picture myself at a rally, with his crowds of enthusiastic supporters all chanting his name. Then he walks out. I’m almost shaking, putting myself in this scene. Once he starts talking, I imagine how charmed I become. I nod along with everything he says as though I’m in a trance. Because that must be it. Up close, he must weave a magical spell.

Nah. I can’t imagine that’s true. Back in the safety of my Beijing apartment, I tell myself that Trump is more like war, where one can only grasp the true horror of it by being there oneself.

Question #2: Seeing that I’ve been okay with the oppressive Chinese government, why am I so frightened of Donald Trump?

It’s a good question. Here in China, things aren’t so hot. The Internet is terribly censored, human and animal rights violations happen constantly, the gap between the rich and the poor is even larger than it is in America, and the levels of government corruption are mind blowing. The RMB – China’s currency – is in a consistent state of flux, its value seemingly sinking down lower and lower every couple of months. They don’t elect their presidents in China and if you were to ask me to cite one good thing that appointed leader Xi Jinping has done – ever – I don’t think that I could do it. He has a nice peaceful countenance, I guess. That must count for something.

Still, I’ve been pretty happy here. Yeah, I’ve complained about a few things in China, but life here is sweet. It’s easy. And so I ask myself how Donald Trump could run a government worse than the current one in China, and I’m not really sure. I mean, this is the original country of walls and foreign exclusion. If I enjoy living here, what makes me think Trump’s America would be that much worse?

Sipping on my instant coffee, it’s a question that I don’t have an immediate answer to. I just know it would suck. That’s all. I think about the president of China again. I’m not sure that I’ve ever heard him speak. His voice is a mystery to me.

So that can be my quick answer. If I’m going to live under an all-powerful dictator, at the very least, he could be quiet.

Crawling Back to the USA

The last time I was in America, things were different. It was before Sandy Hook and before horror struck the Boston Marathon; television audiences had not yet been introduced to Honey Boo Boo and moviegoers were still hotly debating the ending of Inception. Gay marriage hadn’t been legalised, no one had heard of George Zimmerman or Trayvon Martin, LeBron James had no rings on his fingers, and “Like a G6” by Far East Movement was the top song on the charts.

It was the fall of 2010. I got on a plane and flew to South Korea, and I haven’t been back in the States since.

Which isn’t to say I totally lost interest. No, far from it. I would often read about my home country, sometimes discussing the current state of affairs with the other ex-pats in my little community of misplaced westerners. We’d talk about drones and the NSA and the Tea Party and of course recently all we talk about is Trump. It didn’t really matter where I was living – during my 3 years in Korea and then my 3 years in China – there was always one very apparent fact:

The USA, for better or for worse, was always the most interesting person in the room.

Sure, I found it intriguing when South Korea elected Park Geun-Hye as its first ever female president and then the older men in the country started having all kinds of mental breakdowns. And I found it noteworthy when Hong Kong protested against mainland China in what was called the “Umbrella Movement.” But none of those stories had nearly the same kind of visceral, emotional impact on me as, say, Ferguson did. Heck, if I’m being totally honest, in the last three years I’ve probably spent less time reading about Chinese president Xi Jinping than I have about Josh Duggar.

Because, you know, those are my people. Flawed and trying to figure things out. In the country I spent the first thirty years of my life thinking I’d never leave. And as I hopped around Asia and hung out in Europe, they had to deal with those last six years. While I watched Ferguson unfold on the screen of my laptop, they watched it happen in their backyards. It’s one thing to discuss Trump with a group of Brits over drinks in a pub in downtown Beijing; I can imagine it’s something else entirely to discuss Trump with a person who actually plans on voting for him.

In two weeks, I’m going to come back. Yeah, it’s about time. The six years that I spent overseas will likely be the greatest years of my life…but while I was living them, I was always pretty certain that they came with an expiration date. An end time when I’d nod my head in appreciation and go back home.

Not to my apartment in Seoul or my room in Chang Ping.

Nope. Home. To the States.

So this is what my blog – completely and totally ignored for the last four months – is going to turn into. The story of a guy who left America six years ago, and now returns. Feeling older, wiser, and a tad bit unsure of what the hell he’s getting himself into.