Americans in the UK: 'It was a four-year soap opera'

By Manish Pandey
Newsbeat reporter

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image copyrightContributors/Getty Images

"It felt like we were watching a soap opera."

That's how Wade Crouch sums up the last four years of watching events in America unfold from the north of England.

From a president who loved to tweet, to Black Lives Matter protests and a riot at the Capitol building - "it's been eventful", he says.

The 27-year-old Texan now lives with his wife in Yorkshire.

"I feel like I was protected from it by the Atlantic Ocean. It was literally shielding me," he tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

As the era of President Trump comes to an end and Joe Biden prepares to be sworn in, how do Americans in the UK reflect on one of the most dramatic periods in their country's history?

Watching a divided America

For Blake Robinson, it's been disappointing to see the level of division in the past four years.

"It's really highlighted how people have felt about ethnic and minority issues in particular."

Now living in London, she calls Washington DC her home town and says she's felt that divide through her own relationships.

image copyrightBlake Robinson
image captionBlake is doing a master's degree at King's College London

"I had so many friends that I never knew felt a certain way about issues. And it almost felt like they had no shame in acknowledging their bias."

Blake, 27, blame Trump for empowering divisive voices.

"He brought out this group of people that had never really had a voice before. And really bolstered this really awful sense of racial and prejudice bias."

For Wade, the feeling of division can be seen in lots of issues, from dealing with coronavirus to politics.

The presidential election suggests the US is a country very much divided - with Joe Biden and Donald Trump getting more than 70 million votes each.

Wade says politicians only trying to appeal to their own supporters "keeps the temperature up" and encourages division.

image copyrightWade Crouch
image captionWade and his wife Sara live in Yorkshire

"It sets the tone of the conversation. And that's what keeps them from working together to find common ground because they don't need to.

"The last four years have been exhausting to watch."

Inspired by togetherness

Wade feels it's easy to focus on the "more painful stories of division" from back home but says there have been some positives too.

From the Black Lives Matter protests to the women's marches, he's found it "inspiring to see people come together" in difficult moments.

"Americans believe things could be better. And they took to the streets, spoke their voices, and made their voices heard."

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionWade and Maddie are pleased to see people trying to bring about social change in the US

Blake agrees and says minority communities felt like they'd had positive discussions.

"You even see things on Netflix, they have the black voices section, so there's promotion of the arts and inclusion."

'An eye-opening time'

For 23-year-old Maddie Norwood, the highlight of watching the last four years has been important issues around inequality becoming more openly talked about.

With George Floyd's death and clashes in Charlottesville having an effect worldwide, "it's been a really eye-opening time for our nation".

Originally from North Carolina and now in London, Maddie feels issues that were "buried under the surface are becoming looked at publicly".

They didn't begin four years ago, Maddie says, "but people are finally becoming aware of just how deep these issues are in America".

image copyrightMaddie Norwood
image captionMaddie feels the American economy was doing well until the pandemic

And she's pleased with how many more people have become politically engaged back home.

"It's a positive thing for democracy. People who hadn't originally had been willing to talk about politics, have been willing to now."

Looking ahead, Wade thinks the US is "at a turning point".

He wants people in the US to become less hostile in its discussions so "society can become more compassionate for each other".

"I think we first need to take the temperature down, and be able to look at someone with an opposing viewpoint not as the enemy, but as a neighbour who just has a different opinion."

Wade looks at his own relationship with his father as a sign of progress.

"We've now been able to see each other's differences and find somewhere in the middle and not look at each other's views with hostility."

image copyrightBlake Robinson

Blake is optimistic looking at the diversity in the incoming Biden presidency.

"When you think of American politics, you tend to think of old white men. Including people that look different, have different backgrounds, ethnicities, stories and lineages is important.

"Because that's truly a reflection of the American population."

Maddie adds: "The next four years will hopefully be a time of the great divisions in our country slowly being healed."

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