For the last six months, like many around the world, I’ve been glued to my TV. I’ve obsessively watched cable news, set my browser’s homepage to CNN and downloaded a handful of news apps to my phone. There was even a brief moment when I turned on the breaking news notifications; pop-up alerts on my phone every day.
Overloaded with information, I feel simultaneously more aware and more woke than ever before. The obsession started before the USA election, staying up all night to watch the political debates, to tune in on Twitter. And like so many people, I was confounded by the results of the election—just as I was equally surprised by other global affairs this past year. My vision, my ideals, my world as I knew it seemed to be disappearing.
Before the election even took place, I was planning a 3-month trip through the USA. I arrived to New York City days before the election, enough time to spot people queuing up for tickets to Hillary Clinton’s election night party. I’d planned to visit Washington, D.C. on the same trip sometime after the election. I was expecting my candidate to win (like so many people did) and thought it would be an opportunity to witness a bit of history, to measure the mood of the country. When things didn’t go as expected, my trip to Washington, D.C. was already booked. Was I going to visit D.C. during Trump’s America?
For European visitors to the USA, you may need to apply for an ESTA in order to visit the United States. The ESTA is cheaper and easier to get compared to another visa, and with an ESTA you can stay in the USA for up to 90 days.
Like anyone who has a trip already booked—it’s hard to cancel. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized I didn’t want to cancel. This is still my country, dammit. Maybe my government isn’t representing my best interests; maybe my government isn’t representing my country’s best interests, or even the world’s. But Washington, D.C. is a city of the people, for the people and, yes, by the people.
And here’s the thing about D.C. Yes, it’s the capital of the United States of America. But as we’ve been told for decades, America is one of the leaders of the free world, one of the world’s biggest forces on the planet. Washington, D.C. is a global city as much as it is an American one. There are 177 countries with embassies in Washington, D.C. That’s a lot of global representation. With so many countries represented, of course you’ve got restaurants featuring cuisine from every country, every ethnicity, every cultural background.
Washington, D.C. is this incredibly diverse city. Every political interest in America, in the world, is represented here. And there’s no denying the city’s cultural impact, either. The Smithsonian Institute and its collections of 19 museums makes it the world’s largest museum. The Library of Congress, our national archives, is the world’s largest library—with books in every language. These superlatives just roll off the tongue; it’s always easy to claim something is the best or the biggest. But when you have a city that’s home to so many of the world’s superlatives, it’s worth a moment to stop and think about this.
America’s capital city is home to the world’s largest library, the world’s largest museum collection and it’s been the site of some of the world’s largest protests. It is not just a city for Americans, but one for the world.
Over the past several months, since inauguration day, I’ve heard countless friends from abroad talking about their lack of interest in visiting the USA. And while I understand where they’re coming from, and I certainly understand their concerns and worries as foreigners in an increasingly xenophobic country, I do still believe in an America I know.
There are so many things only possible in America, so many incredible sights and sounds and, yes, people. There’s a history in America—one worth knowing and understanding. We’re the country of superlatives, and while we may be excessive in them as in so many of our attributes, I don’t see it as a detriment. Our capital city is testament to America’s greatness. We’ve built monuments and museums documenting our successes and our failures. We’re always learning and building and trying to improve. There have been and there will always be hiccups on the way, but here we are.
In spite of politics, the USA is still a great destination, a place of as much global history as American history. Yes, we’ve got a representative democracy. Our country and its political systems have elected a government in power, in D.C., that are our political representatives. But at the same time, the data from the election shows that the majority of the voters in America did not actively support this outcome. It’s this reason alone, proof of the interests of the people, that I believe prove it’s still largely safe and sane to visit the USA.
Washington, D.C. is the home of our political government, but also of a global history. It’s a city steeped in history and power, but one that is constantly changing and evolving with the feelings and sentiments of the people. During my visit to Washington, D.C. in the interim period after the election and before the inauguration, I saw a lot of different ideologies on posters and protests in the capital. But I also spent hours inside the Smithsonian; I spent a day wandering the National Mall visiting the memorials and monuments; I spent a night out in Georgetown and I spoke to people. So many people. So many ideas and thoughts and opinions.
America has always been a country of immigrants, a place for new and novel ideas and experiments. Tides can change quickly so please don’t write off visiting the USA just yet. It’s an exciting and interesting place with exciting and interesting people. Worth the visit.
Now is the time to visit the USA.
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