I feel bad, leaving the United States now.
I had my first glass of New Zealand sauvignon blanc and rack of lamb today. It was at an Italian restaurant with a Greek chef and a Brazilian hostess. When the hostess brought our check, she asked if we were from the United States. She looked at us and said, “You have one more day with your president. What is going to happen to your country?”
People around the world forgave us for George Bush and the Iraq war, and for Vietnam before that. It was the government, not the people, they said. But I don’t think they’re going to forgive us for giving them Donald Trump.
Our Airbnb host in Auckland doesn’t like Americans. I had barely walked in the door when she told me there are too many tourists in New Zealand. There’s a national debate about it, she said.
She gave me a glass of rose and Torsten a cup of tea and we sat around her table. I told her we had left the United States and that I was feeling sad and guilty. “About leaving a sinking ship?” she asked.
She has no interest in ever visiting America, she says. She doesn’t like American movies and American culture. She doesn’t like American foreign policy. She thinks Americans are naive and ignorant.
I didn’t argue with her. But I told her my longtime theory that America has the best and the worst people in the world. The best? She was skeptical.
I thought of all the lovely Americans I know or have met over the years. They’re the friendliest, the most generous and the biggest-hearted people in the world, I said. Doesn’t everyone know that?
I still think it’s true. But these days, good old American friendliness isn’t enough, because our reputation is running on empty.