by Johannah King-Slutzky
Khaled is a thirty-nine-year-old radio personality who lives in Kuwait. He describes himself as a moderate Muslim with a large family. Although he’s not an American citizen and can’t vote in the U.S., he graduated from a university in Tucson and follows elections closely. He’s not drawn to partisan agendas, but instead follows a great man theory of politics, numbering Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, and John Kennedy among his personal heroes. Until recently, he vocally supported Donald Trump’s run for president and stumped for him on his radio show. Now he regrets his support for the candidate. I interviewed Khaled via email to ask him about why he supported Trump and how it feels to have defected from the entrepreneur’s political camp.
How would you describe your political beliefs?
I’m liberal in many ways. I believe in freedom of speech, choice of religion, political opinion, and women’s rights. All people are equal in rights and obligation toward their community and country. I’m conservative regarding… anything that would affect the honor or dignity of any human. The major perception of the Arabic or Islamic community is that women are degraded and less respected than men. I’d like to say that this is the wrong idea.
What drew you to Donald Trump’s campaign initially?
I supported Trump when he first started because I thought he would improve the American economy and lift the nation to a better state and better way of living, which would affect sour economy and way of living. It was his financial experience and determination that drew me to his side in the beginning. Maybe his media appearances before the race made an impact on me. He portrayed himself as the savior of the American economy, the one who would help any American build his life to reach the American dream.
Why don’t you support Donald Trump anymore?
The way he discusses international matters, which is what’s important in my opinion. He attacked Kuwait in one of his speeches and I thought we were allies. His reasoning for the attack was… he claimed Kuwait did not pay the cost of Desert Storm or liberation. And that was a big lie.
He attacks Islam as a religion on many occasions with the excuse that he is fighting terrorism. That rang a bell in my head. Why? What he’s saying is against everything that America represents!
Was there a particular moment when you realized you could no longer support Trump?
When he attacked my country in his speeches and what he said about Islam made me realize he doesn’t know anything about what’s happening in the real world. He doesn’t know who the real enemy is! He claims that ISIS is Islam, but then why is it fighting Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the other Arabic countries? If he can’t tell which side the US and its allies are fighting, that’s a big issue…We aren’t living in the nineteen fifties, the world is connected. Whatever happens in Kuwait or America will affect all the countries around it. I thought the US and Kuwait were Allies.
How do you feel about having supported Trump in the past?
I felt so so naïve having thought that Trump would be a better choice. I regret every minute I spoke positively about him on him on my radio show. I saw him as a man who would return America and the world to its lost glory. I thought he would fix international problems — he always had that image. And above all I thought he was righteous…I feel betrayed.
Do you feel you have a responsibility to make amends for having supported Trump?
Yes. I started couple of weeks ago. I used to shout out remarks about how Trump will fix America and the world. But after his stupid comments, I started talking about the difference between him and Mr. Clinton or JFK or Mr. Reagan. The way they ruled the country, the world even. People still talk about what they did, but no one is talking about G.W. Bush or Obama anymore. I said it loud and clear: “Trump will ruin the world,” because he wants his businesses to expand. He doesn’t have the political knowledge to perform as a U.S. president. Not every businessman is good in politics.
Do you see any positive qualities in Trump even though you regret supporting his run for president?
The only thing is the economical approach. Trump is still a good businessman. He might fix the economy but he’ll destroy everything else.
Did you feel like you belonged to a community when you supported Trump? Do you feel like you belong to a different crowd now that you no longer support him?
When he started the campaign, I talked about him all the time whenever elections came up. Some people looked at me in a weird way because even though I’m not American, I follow all the news about the election. I explain to them that the world is connected and what happens in the West will change everything here.
Now I feel like I belong to the Democratic Party even when I know they’re not very efficient regarding heavy international issues, other than Obama who is a Democrat but acts like a Republican, especially in his international affairs. Hillary Clinton would be a better choice for the future. Bill Clinton worked with Republicans and Democrats, plus she knows the in’s and out’s of the world.
What are the other people in Kuwait saying about this election? Do their views on this election parallel your own? How are people responding to Trump’s anti-Muslim remarks?
Everybody’s holding their breath. A lot of people are discussing the election, especially after Trump’s comments regarding Kuwait and Islam…We have a different way of looking at the election than Americans. We look very far in the future and think of every scenario that might happen in the region and how the White House will react. The difference between our nation and America is we don’t believe TV and media until we check multiple sources. Obama shocked the region with his response to the Arab revolutions; Bush was hated because of his unnecessary comments and acts of war; and now Trump is still in the race. People hate him before he even reaches the White House.
Kuwaitis own a lot of real estate in the U.S. and some home owners decided to sell their homes and buy houses in Europe or South East Asia. Some people are thinking twice about sending their kids to study in the U.S. It’s even affecting vacations. Some people who used to spend $20,000 for a three-week trip to the States are thinking of spending this year’s summer vacation in Europe instead. Who is the loser in these matters? Kuwaiti-US relations.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length, clarity, and style.
Photo by Gage Skidmore
Save Yourself is the Awl’s farewell to 2015.