Election 2016: Why I’m Glad I Watched it From Ecuador

Well, the 2016 U.S. presidential election is over.

Now we can put the rancor and ill-will aside, let bygones be bygones, get behind our elected president, start cooperating, and all start pulling together for the common good. Right?

Pardon my cynicism, but…it ain’t gonna happen.

Politics just isn’t like that anymore. After 15 years of living and working abroad, I’ve had a chance to watch U.S. politics…and U.S. social and news media regarding politics…from a safe distance. And one thing stands out to me at this point in U.S. history…

Divisiveness has become a way of life in the U.S.

The “news” media thrives on it. No major media outlet actually covers news anymore…they cultivate target audiences by pandering to and confirming the biases of their viewers in order to drive market share, ratings, and ad revenue.

Social media has followed suit. It is now possible to live in a social media “information bubble.” Your social media detects your interests and feeds you back more of the same. Which means that, no matter what your particular political or social point of view, social media will, by design, heap more of it on you. Your existing biases will not only be confirmed, but reinforced.

The result, as far as I can tell, is a huge collection of formal and informal online communities that exist solely to let believers congratulate themselves on how smart they are and how stupid everyone else is.

Which is just the way social media platforms and news organizations like it. Because, if we were all calm and tolerant and reasonable, nobody would spend hours each day getting themselves riled up in front on the TV or at the keyboard.

And that wouldn’t be good for business.

As I said, I’ve been watching all this from outside the U.S. for the past 15 years, and I’ve only seen it get worse during that time. And I’m confident that now that this most divisive, conflict-ridden, and uncivil election in U.S. presidential history is over, there is going to be even more conflict and divisiveness.

Which is one reason I’m glad I made the move overseas in the first place.

I love my country, but—just as there are places on earth to live that are more affordable and have better weather, cleaner air, and fresher food than back home—there are places on earth to live that are more relaxed and have less conflict and divisiveness than back home as well. I’ve lived in a lot of them over the past decade-and-a-half…including Merida, Mexico; San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua; and right now in little Cotacachi, in the highlands of Ecuador. And there are dozens—if not hundreds—more.

And the more tranquil lifestyle of these places can make a huge difference to your quality of life.

I know it’s made a huge difference to my quality of life. In my years abroad, I’ve seen myself and a lot of other expats gain a huge amount of calm and perspective from looking at the situation in our home countries from a more relaxed, less divisive and combative distance.

But we don’t disengage…we still file our taxes, participate in national elections, and keep up with current events as all citizens abroad have the right and obligation to do.

But we do it from a distance, without being immersed in the intentional conflict and bitterness that drives most U.S. politics and social and news media now. Instead, we’re immersed in strolling the village, shopping at the local farmers’ market, lunching with friends, taking trips to hot springs, the beach, and national parks, and chatting and sunning ourselves in the village square.

It’s so relaxed, in fact, that the scene back home reminds me of the story of the frog in the pot of water. If the pot is heated slowly, the frog doesn’t notice the temperature rising, so it doesn’t jump out.

It stays in the pot until it boils.

I’m happy and relieved…as are a lot of other expats I know…to be able to watch that pot boil from a distance.

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