Just Saying

Totally riveted by the Trump reality show

Will Trump be able to keep his promises? Or will his detractors be proven right? Stay tuned

Here in Singapore, I've been watching American politics with a look on my face that I use when I see the perfect family a few doors down.

The type who always look smart but poised to have a screaming fight and throw stuff into the corridor, making you feel like you should call the police. But you don't because you want to see how it ends even if someone ends up in tears as it could be totally worth it, especially if you Facebook Live the whole thing.

So as a person with no investment in American politics, observing the entire Trump saga is like watching a monster movie in which people at a theme park think everything is great, until the dinosaurs pop up and eat them.

To get the view of someone with a stake, I called up a couple of Americans living here. Both were anti-Trump, to put it mildly.

I tried to get in touch with a few others who I was told are pro-Trump, but they didn't return my call. Maybe because it is a bit strange to be earning a living overseas, and supporting a president who is anti-immigration.


Trump supporters lining the parade route at the inaugural parade in Washington on Friday. Mr Trump’s desire to build new highways and airports appealed to one expat here, as did his promise to improve schools and help those on welfare. PHOTO: REUTERS

A 50-something man who wants to be known only as Paul runs a computer graphics business here.

On Saturday, the morning after Donald Trump became President Trump, he is moping. So as not to come into contact with any pro-Trump gloating whatsoever, he has built a wall around his mind to block any and all Trump news, much as one might build a wall to keep out, say, immigrants.

"Is avoidance one of the stages of grief? Because that is what I am doing right now," he says.

The life-long liberal from the blue state of California was at first a Bernie Sanders supporter. He switched to Hillary Clinton after she won the primaries and grew to have a real affection for her.

He left the United States for Singapore 12 years ago, but stays in touch with friends back home. Some are joining the thousands taking part in protest marches against the Trump presidency.

"Where were all these people during the voting? It's closing the barn door after the horse ran away," he notes gloomily.

I end the chat and all talk of his new president before Paul is sent over the edge. I give him a tip that has worked for me when I am down, which is to head to an Indian restaurant for bread and curry. But each man processes tragedy his own way and I left Paul to find his.

Account manager Chelsea Curto, 27, also voted for Hillary. She sounds much less glum than Paul, despite both sharing the same opinion of the 45th President of the United States.

Unlike Paul, she has not shielded her brain from inauguration news, much as one might shield American products from Chinese imports.

"It's patently untrue," says Ms Curto of the contents of his speech.

I know what she means.

However it goes, and whether this Trump reality show lasts for four seasons or one, consider me signed up for the full package.

To my ears, Trump painted a picture of an America blighted by crime, foreign criminals, foreign products, foreign religions, foreign terrorists and foreign foreigners sucking the precious and pure bodily fluids out of America.

And only he, Donald J. Trump, can stop it.

"His statements create a sense of fear about where America is now," says Ms Curto, who lived here with her expatriate family for most of her teens, before coming back last year to work.

Some might have wanted President Trump to stick to inauguration speech tradition, to speak of hope and unity, but Ms Curto was hoping for much more.

"I hoped he would say, 'Just kidding!'," she says, and end his elaborate national prank.

He did not, to her disappointment.

She did like some parts of his speech however.

His desire to build new highways and airports appealed, as did his promise to improve schools and help those on welfare.

"If he does put effort into fixing the infrastructure in the United States, that would be a good thing," she says.

So there is hope.

Trump's speech was a lot of tough talk and posturing. But if he can deliver on better education, more jobs, better pay, an end to crime - maybe he is the game changer he sees himself as.

For now though, whether he can is still up in the air. Until then, it may continue to sting, if you are an American expat.

Paul says that a year ago, he was proud and happy to talk to Singaporeans and others around the region about then President Barack Obama, whom he called a "statesman, a scandal-free family man".

"He was terrific. With Trump, I feel I need to apologise - 'I'm sorry, I didn't vote for him'."

Ouch.

Well, it might hurt for him to talk about his current president, but if my WhatsApp chat groups and Facebook feeds are anything to go by, Singaporeans - me, first among them - will needle him for a reaction to this or that thing that Trump just said or did.

Or we won't have to if Trump does manage to walk the walk.

Then, the Republicans will be out telling us: "We told you so."

However it goes, and whether this Trump reality show lasts for four seasons or one, consider me signed up for the full package.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 22, 2017, with the headline 'Totally riveted by the Trump reality show '. Print Edition | Subscribe