U.S. Election Attack Rhetoric Hits Home with International Students

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The attack rhetoric employed by the campaigns of both major presidential candidates is something that is interesting to many UA international students from around the globe – it’s a tactic that is familiar to most but a cause of concern for others, students said.

Laury Lopez, a senior from Panama and the President of the International Student Organization on campus, said that she is used to candidates who try to bring out the “dark side” of their opponents, as this is a tactic that is also used in Panamanian elections.

It is important for the international student population to pay attention to what is being said, though, because the outcome of the election could potentially affect immigration measures  – which would be pertinent to an increasing number of foreign peoples trying to come into the country, Lopez said.

“The university is very diverse, and everybody is used to seeing people from everywhere, and we get along with each other pretty well,” Lopez said. “That diversity should be taken into account. It’s not like we are (a) very small group. We are growing.”

Martin Orji, a senior from Nigeria, said he also thinks immigration is something international students should be concerned with.

There is a unique tension present with this specific election, but that does not mean that UA international students will be negatively impacted. So far he has felt very comfortable growing and adapting to the culture here, Orji said.

Orji appreciates the fairness of the election process in the U.S. as opposed to Nigeria though, where he said election results are not always fair.

Jared Phillips, clinical assistant professor in the international studies department, said that one of the greatest tools that students and other community members have as voters is the ability to connect and form relationships with people from different regions.

“At the end of the day, the world is coming in,” Phillips said. “We have to have some kind of engagement with the world, not to control what is happening, but to understand what is coming.”

Febriyanti Lestari, a doctoral student and Fulbright scholar from Indonesia, said she feels very safe in Fayetteville and in the U.S. as a whole, but that doesn’t mean that things won’t change with the result of the upcoming election.

Attack rhetoric is not really a factor in Indonesian elections, Lestari said, but the elections themselves have started to take after the American system in the last decade or so. Public and televised debates are something that is relatively new to the campaign process there.

Lestari feels that people in her country are paying special attention to this year’s election, she said, because of Hillary Clinton’s 2010 visit to the Indonesia as Secretary of State, a visit in which Clinton remarked, “If you want to know if Islam, democracy, modernity and women’s rights can coexist, go to Indonesia.”

Similar to how Lestari cites Clinton’s visit as an inciting factor for people in her country to be interested in the election, Moses Agare, a junior from Kenya, cites President Barack Obama’s Kenyan heritage as a reason why citizens of his country will pay attention to the election.

“Obama helped build a bridge between Kenya and the United States,” Agare said. “People are interested to see who will replace (his) administration.”

The negative propaganda in Kenya is far worse than the attack rhetoric that has in many ways defined this year’s lead-up to the election, Agare said.

He was under the impression that American politicians did not verbally attack each other in the same way that candidates did in Kenya, but he now realizes the two countries are similar in that regard, though he still maintains that Kenyan negative propaganda is more intense, Agare said.

Raymond Kim, a junior from South Korea, also said that negative propaganda in his country is more prevalent during campaigns than it is in the U.S.

One of the main reasons why people in South Korea are interested in the election is because of the presence of U.S. troops in Korea, Kim said.

Donald Trump’s statements about either removing the troops, or making South Korea pay for their upkeep, is a topic of discussion in Korea, Kim said.

A topic of discussion on the UA campus this past month, specifically among candidates for the 2016 Homecoming court, has been the Old Main Oath.

One of the key tenets of the Oath, which was instituted by the Associated Student Government in 2015, is diversity, an aspect that 2016 Homecoming King Agare said is most important to him.

“If you are a minority student on campus, or you don’t feel represented,” Agare said after being crowned king. “(I want you) to feel like you can do it no matter what.”

“I commit to Diversity,” the Oath states, “to respect the rights of all in my thoughts, words, deeds in order to embrace an environment of inclusion and acceptance.”

Inclusion and acceptance at the UofA will probably not change no matter how the election turns out, Laury Lopez said. That does not, however, mean that the future of immigration policy and of acceptance of foreign peoples in other areas of the country are not vulnerable to change.

“A lot of people come here following the American dream, and so everybody has some expectations,” Lopez said. “That can change based on who the president is.”





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