The Pendulum Theory

As an American, planning a trip to Europe four months after Donald Trump was elected to office, and only two months after he officially claimed the name “Mr. President,” felt risky. From an international perspective, we’re seen as a whole. So, we, as a whole, put this man into office. I mean, hell, the phrase “united” is in the name of our country.

Naturally, I wasn’t stoked to tell people from other countries where I lived. Generally, the first words out of people’s mouths are, “Where are you from?” I took a stab at a Canadian accent as back up, while under the impression every other country despised us and our newly elected leader. But I didn’t experience anger or frustration from others. More or less I just felt embarrassed. He’s seen as an absolute joke. EVERYONE is laughing at us, just so we’re clear.

Aside from the laughter, though, all of the reactions were along the lines of, “If you supported him, you wouldn’t be here.” So, with this sliver of common ground, I couldn’t wait to talk politics with people outside of my home. In the states, the conversation is a lost cause.

To my knowledge, we’re not the only ones politically broken. Some are beyond repair, and others are beginning to see the cracks.  

Citizens and tourists cruise the city streets of Bologna.

Citizens and tourists cruise the city streets of Bologna.

I left Como and met one of my best friends Gabby, from home, in Milan. The lovely family who’d hosted me a week prior, opened their doors again while Gabby got her footing in a new country. I knew once we were together, my own journey would go through an intense shift. I’d share it with someone now, someone near and dear to me.

We brainstormed where we’d go next. Our hosts recommended Bologna – a city a bit north of Florence – because it’s a university town. Lots of students. Lots of beer.

With the intention of going where the wind blew us, we booked transport and were on our way. Eager for free lodging and new friends, I whipped out my Couchsurfing app and came across a 27-year-old Brazilian, Raoni, who agreed to let us crash on his couch for the next couple of days.

Couch surfing is … interesting. You meet someone, and at the same moment, you’re spreading your shit all over their home and sleeping in their living room. But this kind of hospitality is common in Europe, and Raoni was no newbie at it. He was sweet and well informed and bought us breakfast and coffee the next morning.

An overlook of Bologna from its tallest tower.

An overlook of Bologna from its tallest tower.

During our stay here, I began to get a grip on the global political crisis. Raoni informed us that Brazil has been experiencing a situation similar to the states’.

In Aug. 2016, the Senate impeached Brazil’s first female president, Dilma Rousseff. The decision came from an accusation that she was manipulating the federal budget to cover up the fact that Brazil’s economy was slipping through her fingers.

The impeachment also ended a 13-year era of left-y leadership. During that time, Brazil swam in economical success, but Rousseff couldn’t keep it moving forward in that direction. She fought hard against a dictatorship in the 1980s, and while praised for her efforts, conquering and leading are two very different duties.

The man who took her place is Michel Temer. His approval ratings are nearly as low as Rousseff’s. He quickly shifted the government to the right, and gave no women or Afro-Brizilian ministers positions in his cabinet.

A handful of his cabinet members have resigned – their name and the word “scandal” being used in the same sentence. For example, his anticorruption and planning ministers did everything to avoid investigations regarding bribery scandals and Petrobras, the national oil company.

Also, within months, Temer managed to pass bills that slashed funding for education and healthcare.

Starting to sound familiar?

And let’s not forget about Brexit, or France’s most recent election that filled the country with anxiety.

We started thinking about the pendulum theory. When a pendulum reacts to the initial push, it sways intensely in one direction, then intensely in the opposite. 

In our case, we could argue Bush, Obama, then Trump.

But after the pendulum swings fiercely in both directions, the forces of gravity settle in the middle.

Stillness.

Hopefully, right?

The leaning towers of Bologna.

The leaning towers of Bologna.