A Summer in Spain: Politics and Terror

Helen Rogalski, Managing Editor

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Coming here for the summer, I was prepared for people to ask me about Donald Trump. However, I was not expecting most of the Spaniards I know to be so curious about my thoughts on the topic. I don’t blame them, though. Donald Trump and his growing support has become a prevalent point of discussion in the international arena.

The discussions began when we were watching the news one night. A local Spanish News Station reported on Donald Trump speaking at the American Rifle Association. I could tell that my host family was not impressed, and that they might have even been a little afraid for me.

Whenever people ask me if I want Donald Trump to be the President or if I think he will be, I take a deep breath. In some ways I can understand the appeal. Trump is different, he doesn’t play the political games, he’s a famous businessman, and he says whatever he wants.

This political game is different, but I wouldn’t call it refreshing. The problems I run into when seriously considering the possibility that Donald Trump could be president are too hard to ignore.

Proposing that all Muslims be banned and removed from the United States is straight up horrible. I have to wonder if the people cheering onto this idea understand what the term “Muslim” means. It is in no way a translation into “terrorist”.

Islam is a religion of the world, of which more than 1 billion people follow. It is one that promotes love, devotion, charity, prayer, and more.

Statements from Trump about this topic, and ones such as building a wall, make me sad for my country. How ignorant of a nation can we be to believe that all 1 billion plus Muslim people in the world are terrorists? How uniformed and power hungry can we be to assume that the best way to handle immigration issues is to put up a wall and deport immigrants who are already here?

If America is the land of the free, how can we have so much support for such oppressive campaign ideas?

These reasons are why I don’t like talking about Donald Trump here in Spain, and why I don’t have a concrete answer as to how I feel about the entire situation. However, by having these discussions, I have gained more perspective.

After watching the news covering Trump one night, my 12 year old host sister, brought up a video she had seen of Trump, making these obscured plans to remove all Muslims from the US. She was confused, and had some questions and points of her own to make.

Her first question was about how so many people could think so poorly of Muslims. She said that two or three percent of Spain is Muslim, she has Muslim friends, and it’s not even an issue or topic of discussion here.

Many claim that their hesitancy towards Muslim people is because of the past terrorist events in the United States caused by Islamic extremist groups. They are afraid of the possibilities. These groups are extreme and scary. I get it! But they are also elsewhere in the world, and only America has reacted in such harsh repercussions and become consumed by fear.

In 2004, there was a bombing at a train station in Madrid. Although I had traveled through the station before, I had never heard of the event. Roughly 190 people were killed and over 2000 were injured. One of those injured included the brother of my host mom. He survived with mild injuries.

This is a well-known event across Spain, but again, one that I had never heard of. When Ana spoke of this event, she said that it happened, and the country mourned and moved on. It has in no way altered her view of Islam or her Muslim friends.

So this begs the question, why do Americans tend to make such harsh assumptions of anyone who is different from them? How can we, as a nation, overcome ignorance and promote peace between countries and religions? Is it possible to stop? What’s the solution?

I always, always, always think of education as a solution. Ana’s positive views about Muslim people stem from being exposed to the religion and from being raised to respect it. The best thing that we can do to combat America’s misconceptions of the world is to teach the truth. But here comes another problem, how can we implement this teaching if we continuously cut spending on education?