I posted this article (of the same name) in 2016 in the early days of the US presidential campaign. It remains my favourite piece, and to this day remains pertinent given the dismal failure of the Trump administration and the stupidity of the president himself, and that America votes again in three weeks in what some people consider to be their most important election yet.
This is my 1000th piece for The AIMN – and given the pertinence of my 2016 article – to mark my personal milestone I would like to revisit it. I hope you enjoy it as much now, as you did then. There are some changes, which will be in italics. (I would like to add that the original article was also published on the popular American blog, Crooks And Liars).
Only in America
As a young boy born in the year of the bombing of Pearl Harbour, I have been privy, in my growing up in Melbourne Victoria Australia, to witness the way in which the United States insinuated its post-war mentality into the Australian psyche.
Whether born at home or overseas and whether for good or ill, Australians became Americanised.
Perhaps, I should pause here, lay my cards on the table, and even offer a disclaimer. I confess I haven’t visited the American mainland. Honolulu is as far as I have ventured. There, I was suitably impressed by the hospitality of the people, struck by their obesity, and disillusioned by their ignorance of all things not American. I find them often crass, as well.
As an example, I recall a sightseeing expedition one Summer day on the magnificent Sydney Harbour. The ferry carried a dozen or so American tourists. As we rounded an estuary, we encountered a large yacht race approaching us; their vibrant, colourful spinnakers in full sail. The scene was breathtakingly beautiful, but the loud Americans, more interested in the value of the mansions that dotted the cliffs, spoiled the moment.
On the other hand, I have a number of American Facebook friends with more developed sensibilities, some of whom I speak with regularly on Skype or telephone. These individuals are politically attuned to the downward course America is taking. In heartfelt conversation, they express their despair at the decline of what they once thought – rightly or wrongly – to be the greatest nation on earth. What they once regarded as an enlightened society strengthened by freedom of expression they now question as they see these same constitutional protections used by the Right to foment hatred.
Like me, they believe that in an enlightened society the need to legislate one’s right to hate another person is considered intellectually barren.
They mention the land of milk and honey in terms of “American Exceptionalism” and wonder why their fellow citizens still believe in the great American dream. They ask themselves if it was all just propaganda, a myth to distract the majority from the wrongs perpetrated against the minority.
Alas, under the leadership of Donald Trump, in the space of four years our view is anything but exceptional.
In fact, our trust in the American President has fallen off a cliff. The decadence of the nation so aptly told through the lies of President Trump explains the latest polling from the Lowy Institute. “Since 2011our faith in the US to act responsibly has fallen from 83% to 55%, while only 30% of Australians have confidence in Trump’s foreign policy.”
The only people in Australia who trust in Trump are like-minded conservative equivalents who vote with our government.
I guess what I’m trying to project here is that far from “Making America great again” Trump has turned the swamp into a circus of which he is senior clown.
That an estimated 40% of the population believe in his every word is evidence that firstly the propaganda of the extreme right has been successful. Secondly, that the American people are extremely gullible and thirdly that the bias of Fox News and other media has worked.
Again, I had better pause lest you fail to grasp where I am heading. In Australia we have a saying, “Only in America.” It’s a phrase we say when something outrageously good or bad happens, as though such excesses can occur only in America.
It might be violent racism, another Columbine, kids being slaughtered – any preventable, tragic loss of life that repeats time and again for which no remedy is forthcoming. All of this is beyond the average Australian’s capacity to understand.
In terms of guns we would say in our rather impetuous wisdom that it is time that those with the capacity to change laws that might prevent the mass murder of people and refuse to do so were made to account. After all they are as guilty or as mad, whatever the case, as the perpetrator himself.
We would have similar thoughts for individuals of little empathy for those suffering from the effects of the coronavirus. “The blokes a fairdinkum bloody nut case” you will hear whispered in the corridors of power and shouted in our suburban streets.
In contrast, we also use “Only in America” as a term of endearment when some outstanding achievement occurs: a significant scientific breakthrough, a sporting record, a foot touching the moon’s surface.
How is it, we ask, that the most technologically advanced country in the world is descending into the moral abyss of unscrupulous, partisan political skulduggery and unbridled capitalism?
The profound decay of America in Trump’s term of office has been remarkable. It is also astonishing how it doesn’t seem to be able to be stopped. Racism has become more intrenched and the brutality toward people of colour has intensified.
Partisan politics has become so bitter that the two parties hate each other and seem to be so demarcated that they agree on nothing.
Riots are almost an everyday occurrence and Trump urges them on. His reaction to the COVID-19 deaths – over 215,000 in his own country – is one of little interest.
His behaviour and his spoken words in the election period have been so perplexing that one has to question his sanity.
America’s most famous Journalist Bob Woodward says he fears fur the future of the United States. “I’m deeply, profoundly worried about it.”
“Capitalism,” wrote Martin Luther King Jnr:
“as practiced in the USA does not allow for an even flow of economic resources. With this system a small privileged few are rich beyond conscience and almost all others are doomed to be poor at some level.”
Australians once applauded Americans for their ability to disagree on policy issues yet reach bipartisan agreement through compromise for the sake of the country at large. What happened?
Ronald Reagan gained power and legitimised the rise of Neo-conservatism and the Christian Right. This trend continued under George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove and their cohort of ideologues. Believing America to be superior in every way to all other countries, they drove the U.S. towards a more aggressive, interventionist foreign policy and tried to reshape the nation domestically in their image, as well.
Sadly, the Americanisation of Australia continues apace and our politics are now increasingly informed by the same corrupt and duplicitous mindset.
In 2013, following four years of leadership turmoil in the Labor Party, Australians in their absentmindedness elected Tony Abbott as Prime Minister.
Neo-conservative Republicanism had crossed the oceans and invaded our Australian way of life; a culture that once had fairness at the core of its being. It is now a place where less informed voters unfortunately outnumber the more politically aware.
Conservatives fed them all the bullshit they needed to hear. And the menu generally contained a fair portion of Americanised persuasive untruth. And the lying from Abbott began in earnest:
“Let’s be under no illusions: the carbon tax was socialism masquerading as environmentalism”.
With that statement and many more like it he took Australia into far-right conspiracy theory politics.
After two years the public, and indeed his party had had enough of the politics of fear and replaced him with the more moderate and sensible Malcom Turnbull. Ironically though it now has a centre left leader leading a far-right party.
Australian politics is now a corrupt mess and the more the government get away with the more emboldened they become.
We have seen such a decline in the practice of government that it wouldn’t surprise me if circumstances might prevail that would give the conservatives a long period of power that might entrench them. So good has the propaganda been. Add to it the lack of interest the public has in politics and you have a situation where maintaining the status quo is but a few lies away. Our current Christian Prime Minister copies the Trump methodology of only pleasing those that will help you win.
How bitterly dispiriting it is when the hearts and minds of our politicians are so utterly corrupted by this virus of political lies, but more demoralising it is that ordinary people catch the same infection.
So emphatically poor of political morality is the U.S. now that there is a distinct possibility that an ill of mind billionaire entertainer in Donald Trump might trump a second-grade movie actor to become the next president.
How a man of such ill repute, threatened by two countries to be disallowed entry, could even be nominated beggar’s belief. It even questions the sanity of those who would contemplate his election.
To think that the Republican Party could ever consider a megalomaniac like Trump as a nominee to run for the presidency illustrates just how low the GOP have fallen.
That he wanted to exit the hospital after treatment for COVID-19 wearing a Superman t-shirt under his suit so he could dramatically reveal it upon leaving hospital last week confirms his mental state.
The New York times says that “he ultimately decided against the stunt, thus depriving the world of what would have been a… memorable moment in a year of memorable moments.”
Continued tomorrow… (link to Part 2)
My thought for the day
The Office of the American President was once viewed by its people as an office of prestige and importance. Trump has reduced it to one of ridicule and contempt.
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