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A Non Partisan Letter To My Countrymen from Your Globally Minded Sister

My Dear Fellow Americans,

You may not all agree with the thoughts that I express in the following paragraphs, but I ask that you read this through, then make comments as you wish. First of all, let’s start off on some common ground, with some mutual adoration of the great American icon and my personal literary idol, Mark Twain. Across all political spectrums, I would be hard pressed to find any American who would speak up and say “I hate Mark Twain”, “Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn were deplorable” or “I refuse to read his works.” Nope, no ill will towards Mark Twain within the greater American public.

Mark Twain, like myself was a traveler. We all know him for being one of the greatest American writers and story tellers who ever lived, but what we may or may not know, are the exact experiences that inspired those stories that he so eloquently put to paper and will live for generations to come in our hearts.

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Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa, Dubai, UAE

The common threads throughout his adventurous tales were the everyday characters and their relationships with one another.   Although his settings were clearly inspired by his small town, southern upbringing, much of the inspiration for the human interactions actually resulted from his travels around our country and abroad, that created a unique and globally minded perspective ingrained in who he was, what he wrote and how he lived.   Mark Twain was a risk taker, a forward thinker, certainly eccentric on more than one occasion, but a true progressive of his time.

After spending half of my adult life traveling the world extensively, visiting every continent, living for extended periods of time in various countries so different from my own, and truly diving face first into their cultures, I too was afforded that unique and globally minded perspective, at quite a young age.

One of the most beautiful things about a globally minded perspective is your ability to reflect on different aspects of your own culture from both an insider and outsider’s standpoint. By gathering decades of knowledge gained from conversations with friends and strangers, across Europe, Latin America, Africa, The Middle East and Asia, with people of all society levels, representing a vast spectrum of opinions, it has made me a strong communicator and acutely aware of the vast amount of good that exists in our culture and our political system.

These conversations weren’t always easy or my preferred topic, but I am thankful that I never shied away from the thought provoking and challenging topic of American politics and culture that fell into my lap from my late teenage years, as these exchanges of thoughts truly shaped how I would think and express myself as an adult.

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Karpenisi, Greece

They began early in my travels with curious Spaniards asking me, the blonde, late-teen American girl, who lived in their neighborhood, what I thought of the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal, as it played out in the tabloid news everywhere I turned, and how was Bill Clinton as a president?   As the conversations progressed, the floodgates of opinions opened up, often leading to that individual’s greater opinion of American culture, and then to be discovered in most cases, that they had never even visited our country, all the while my ears listened and my mind opened widely.

Throughout the excessive tabloid fodder that summer, the vast majority of these conversations ended in the revelation that these Europeans still loved Bill Clinton as a world leader for all of the good that he had done in the US and more visibly to them, his achievements internationally, so fortunately for us Americans, this scandal did nothing to tarnish our standing in the world, as many Americans were lead to believe back at home. Furthermore, the global taste for “all things American culture” couldn’t be more appetizing, with phenomenons like Titanic still in theatres all over the world, pop acts like Britney Spears and “boy bands” on the rise, and Nike being the shoe of choice for kids everywhere, erroneously pronounced (Nyyk) with only one syllable as the Spaniards to this day!

Returning to Europe for 6 months in early 2000, I expected to receive much more critical opinions than those from the conversations of the summer of ’98, after all, a division had begun in my own country and there were many on the conservative side of politics who were enraged at Bill Clinton and wanting him impeached. Interestingly enough, when similar conversations popped up, overwhelmingly, the European people on all levels of society, were well informed and their opinions remained quite positive towards Bill Clinton as a leader.

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United States Embassy, Madrid, Spain

For me, an independent young woman, with strong morals and a developing sense of self, I was certainly a little embarrassed by my President’s marital indiscretions, especially being repeatedly subjected to questions on the topic by random people, who identified me as the “Token American” abroad, but more than anything I realized there was a huge disconnect between these Europeans’ pragmatic outlook and the masses in my own country who were irate and wanting extreme consequences for Clinton’s personal mistakes.   My fellow American people were considerably “less informed” than those individuals who had far less in this stake, those individuals who weren’t Americans, weren’t living in the United States, but merely displayed an open minded curiosity of foreign affairs and a desire for educated dialogue.

Of course I was saddened for Hillary and Chelsea Clinton who both had to deal with this unfathomable family crisis in the public eye, but I came to the adult conclusion that I was still proud of Bill Clinton as my President, and his personal mistakes did not detract from the great accomplishments that he achieved for our country, both at home and abroad.

Not being an overtly political individual, I didn’t seek out these conversations, but as I continued to live and travel abroad for much of the next 18 years, and carry on thought provoking conversations with locals and other avid travelers internationally, American Politics often resurfaced as the topic. An interesting juxtaposition had also begun to happen, shortly after September 11th. Initially, there was a great outpouring of sympathy and unity towards Americans by people of all nationalities, along with a genuine warmth expressed towards our new President, George W Bush, but that sentiment quickly dissipated with his choices to invade both Afghanistan and Iraq and the usage of extreme rhetoric like “Axis of Evil”.

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Tochal Mountain, Tehran, Iran

Americans at home exhibited high morale towards our President and strong unity towards one another, partially due to the benefits of the Clinton economy still in full throttle, but each time I left the country during the Bush administration, the outside world’s opinion of our President was diminishing rapidly and eventually that diminished reputation was applied to the American people as well.

Being a kind and open minded representative of my country when I was abroad became my personal goal, in an effort to counteract the negative effects that the Bush Administration was having on our international standing. Yes, it was idealistic but I touched many people and have friends the world over who have a stronger and more positive view of American people than had they not met me.

The unfortunate side of this juxtaposition is that while I was aware of the rapidly diminishing reputation of Americans internationally, the vast majority of the American people had no idea of our diminished standing in the world, and didn’t realize this until years after Bush was no longer our President, somehow choosing to place the blame on the Obama administration when they were responsible for successfully restoring our strong international standing and did so even amidst the great adversities that persist in the Middle East.

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AroosJoon.com Engagement Party Dinner with Influencers Mina Al Sheikhly, May El Abany, Muroj Saadi and Jessy Karam

Had my fellow Americans traveled, opened themselves up to other cultures of the world, had real conversations with the people of these cultures, explored the differences that we have in our world, we would all understand that we have the greatest government and “system” in the world, with the least amount of corruption and the most efficient spending of our taxpayer monies.   That strong Federal, State and Local governments are all needed to keep a free, fair and inclusive country of 320 million citizens functioning in the way that we do.

Through travel and cultural exploration, you’d learn that we’re not perfect, we certainly have room for improvement, but that no other country in the world has systems in place that work as well as ours, and that faith in the system creates hope and hope fosters creativity and creativity leads to growth, so we must responsibly inform ourselves on how our system is not broken, so that we never lose hope. We must open our minds, become students of the world to know what is being done better by other cultures and adopt those solutions, tweaking them to be the right fit for our own nation, just as the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Persians and the Romans did as they established what we know as civilization is in this world.

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Istanbul, Turkey

If we’re doubtful of the positive efforts that our government has made over these extremely challenging 8 years economically, I encourage you to travel the world and explore the other economies and compare how we’re faring in this global economic crisis versus everywhere else. Visit the hugely populous countries like China, India, Brazil, Russia and Pakistan then return to the United States and reflect upon what you’ve seen. How did their public transportation work, their infrastructure, their criminal justice system, and their emergency responders? Make note of environmental factors like air and water quality, pollution, waste management and recycling along with visible signs of poverty.

Then visit the developed countries in Southern Europe that were all hit as badly as the US by the economic crisis that began in 2008, and for much of the same reasons; the housing / real estate bubble bursting and mortgage / banking system crash due to lacks in regulations. Walk around in the major cities and small towns throughout Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and Greece. Ask their people about their employment statistics, their retirements, their savings, observe how many storefronts are closed down on your average city block in an affluent neighborhood, or entire blocks abandoned in the small towns and rural areas. You will find far more desolate scenarios in all of these countries, in 2016, 8 years later, compared to the our current economic state. The fact that we have pulled ourselves out of the economic crisis due to the resilience of our people and the strength and regulations put in place by the Obama administration must not be forgotten.

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Cabo da Roca, Portugal

We did this on our own because we are great people and America is already a great country. There were no economic bailouts from neighboring countries, yes, our government used our own monies to bail out some industries so that we could grow and get back on track, but we overcame this huge challenge because we were strong, we worked hard and we sacrificed together! We Americans invented the concept of Team Work, so now is not the time to quit the team.

Our responsibility of hard work is never over, but we must not allow ourselves to lose hope in our system, blame other countries for our economic woes or be ill informed of the reality of our true economic standing on a global scale, as altered reality will lead to the downward spiral killing creativity and growth. We are still the global economic leaders, the innovators and the example that the rest of the world looks up to and we must never lose this standing. Step outside of our country and look at the technology that the people have in their hands, the brands that they’re coveting, the industry leaders who the international youth aspire to emulate or that President that citizens of the world admire as if he were their own leader, and all of those things right now are uniquely American.

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The W Hotel, Barcelona, Spain

If OBAMACARE is the Boogey Man in your life, ask yourself what is the best plan for you and your family. Think of the Affordable Care Act as “one of the biggest startups of all time”, per the wise advice of Mark Cuban, and have faith that our government will improve this system, working out the kinks and growing pains that much of our independently employed middle class are feeling. I’m with you on this and have seen my personal insurance rates increase significantly, so I feel your pain, but we must look towards the many examples of fully functioning universal health care systems that exist in nearly every other developed nation in the world and aim to move our system in that direction, which can only be done through thought provoking conversation, not gridlock and obstructionism.

Encourage your representatives in congress and the senate to move towards a better solution and not just block progress. Ignore the fear mongering and false realities being preached and travel to the countries where these universal health care systems are in place and fully functioning, like Canada, Australia or any Western European country, including the UK and all of Scandinavia and talk to their citizens. You’ll be shocked to hear that the vast majority of people in all of these countries and on all social levels believe that universal health care is a right to all citizens and that its barbaric that the United States, the global leader in democracy does not have health care for all of it’s people.

You’ll quickly learn that universal health care is not just crazy rhetoric that you’ve heard from the “Socialist” candidate Bernie Sanders’ over the past 18 months, but the real health care solution that every other developed nation in the world chooses. Those of you concerned about the rumors of “long lines” and “months long wait lists” to see doctors on this universal system, rest assured that supplemental private insurance plans still exists in all of these countries and having one alleviates these long waits and they’re actually very affordable.

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Chatuchak Weekend Market, Bangkok, Thailand

Walk into a pharmacy while you’re in any of these countries and observe the prices of most of the same prescription drugs that you take in the US, stock up while you’re there, just as I’ve done, in Spain, Italy, the UK, Germany, Turkey, Thailand, Hong Kong, the UAE, Mexico and Iran, all countries where I have spent extensive time and all countries where their governments do not allow the pharmaceutical companies to price gauge the consumers. Yes, I’m aware that these countries are not all model democracies nor all considered part of the greater “developed world” but they are actually ahead of the US in pharmaceutical regulations.

Turn on the television and open a few local magazines and newspapers during your travels abroad and you will quickly find them absent of all prescription drug advertisements, one of the main culprits for our soaring drug prices in the United States.

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Antalya, Turkey

If you believe the Trump healthcare plan is the one for you, I encourage you to research the most similar program in the world, which currently exists in the UAE, a country of 9 million. There, the upper echelons of the society benefit from a robust coverage that even extends to reconstructive surgery after child birth, yes that means in some cases a tummy tuck and vaginal rejuvenation surgery for the mother, and child care costs covering the likes of nannies. In order to make this luxurious health care plan possible for the elite, the vast majority of their 9 million population have little to no coverage at all. We Americans can travel to the UAE easily without a visa and airfare on Emirates and Etihad are relatively affordable, so I encourage you to do so.   You can even start the thought provoking conversation prior to arrival with the cabin crew on your flight. Both of these airlines are UAE based companies, so you can ask the multi cultural crew about their compensation and their health care. One of the biggest surprises that you’ll encounter is that an Emirati national, a white American or a white British national will likely be earning higher wages and have a better health care package than their counterparts from other countries and cultures.

I place zero judgment on this system at all as every country has the right to choose how they would like to regulate their industries and distribute their wealth, but is this the health care plan that we want for the United States, a country of 320 million?   How much of our population would be left out of health care altogether so that this luxurious health care plan that benefits wealthy working families can succeed? Perhaps Ivanka Trump, being the strong business woman that she is, benchmarked off of the UAE model when she advised her father on his health care plan.   To the UAE government’s defense, they regulate the pharmaceutical industry, providing their residents with much more affordable prescription drugs, something that is completely absent from the Trump plan.

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Tehran, Iran

Through conversations with one another, listening to what the other side has to say, digesting the thoughts, and calmly replying with your opinion, we can discover the truth together and work towards making ourselves members of a stronger team and a better America.

In August, while I was at the beach in South Carolina, I took the opportunity to initiate a thought provoking conversation with a Trump supporting family. I calmly asked them a few questions, starting the conversation on the topic of travel, curious whether they’d traveled internationally, which they had not, apart from the father having been stationed at a few US Military bases abroad, but never took the opportunity to have his family travel with him nor explore the local cultures beyond the bases.

I then inquired about the challenges that they currently faced with our system and their motivations behind their vote. The father, now retired from active duty in the army was instantly on the defensive, and only replied with the angry rhetoric that we see on the news at Trump rallies then stormed off. To his defense, he probably had a few too many beers during his day on the beach. Before he stormed off, his college-aged daughter expressed that she supported Bernie Sanders so wasn’t sure who she would now vote for on election day, and he continued to speak over her and state that she had to vote for Trump living under his roof, while she was calmly trying to explain why she supported her candidate.

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Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

The mother was very thoughtful and somewhat embarrassed by her husband’s actions. She explained her reasoning for supporting Trump, whom she didn’t particularly like, but being part of the middle class drastically affected by rising health care costs, she felt her only option was to vote for the Republican candidate. In her opinion, the entire fault of rising health care costs fell Obama Care and the Obama administration, but she did acknowledge my point that pharmaceutical regulations and health care provider regulations would contribute to solving this equation for the American people. Their two young sons built sand castles on the beach beside us and were in their own world for much of the conversation, or we may have thought, until one completed his castle with the Trump brand etched in sand as the finishing touch. I’m thankful for this conversation and the insight that this family shared with me. Rains came in before I was finished chatting with the mother and daughter and I would have loved to see what common grounds we could come to. The whole experience reinforced my views of the importance of travel and getting to know other cultures of the world and differing opinions of the world, while it also reinforced the concerning reality that many of my own countrymen are unwilling to open up, listen, and discuss both sides of the political spectrum, even with those who disagree within their own families.

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Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa, Dubai, UAE

I don’t write this today to tell you who you should vote for on Tuesday, that is your personal choice, but I do ask all of my fellow Americans, before you vote on Tuesday and before you criticize the other political party now or any day after the elections, make certain that you are well informed of the facts, seek out a global perspective through conversations with people whom you agree and disagree with and travel abroad as soon as you have the opportunity. I guarantee that your mind will become open on at least a few subjects, and you will have a newly found pride in the greatness that is America.

If Mark Twain were still alive, I’d like to think that he’d agree with my thoughts and who knows, perhaps he’d even Re-tweet this essay, as I’m sure we all would be his followers on Twitter.

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