That there is more into any nation than its political leadership at a given point in time, this is true for any country, yours included. But fact of the matter is that when it comes to America, whom you put on the top of your state’s ladder matters way more to us, the rest of world than, for instance, who would become the Prime Minister of Albania or Thailand – with all due respect to these countries. That’s why the views I’d like to humbly share with you today in this open letter are primarily about your upcoming presidential elections.
Sixteen years ago, my line Manager was American. That morning of November 3, 2004, the day when we got to know that George W. Bush had been re-elected, as I showed up at the office, I noticed a post-it from him on my computer. It said: « Désolé ». I immediately went to him: « You don’t have to be sorry. Not only I know you did not vote for this prick, but also to me, as long as folks like Bob Dylan or Patti Smith are considered Americans, I will never have any problem with Americans as such ». Still, the world surely didn’t get any better with « four-more-years » of what we thought was the worst American political leadership one could experience in this post cold-war era. Well, that was before Trump got elected.
I know for sure that many Americans (a majority of the voters, actually) didn’t go for this option four years ago. And that today, latest opinion polls’ results indicate that this would still be he case, including in the swing states, now. This being said, majority or not, I have to say that, somewhat unconsciously to many, Donald Trump happens to embody the absolute cliché of « the American ». A sort of concentrate – just pour in some water and you’d get an average American as often seen by non-Americans: arrogant, loud, rude, overly self-confident, ignorant of History and Geography. Similarly, his politics would perfectly match the pre-conceived ideas of those opposing America – « anti-imperialists » of all kinds around the world: superiority complex, limitless use of armed forces, intimidation diplomacy, blind endorsement of the Israeli far-right agenda, unilateralism, claiming championship of democracy abroad whilst Blacks still struggle for equality and justice at home, priority to oil supply control… you name it: Donald Trump ticks all the boxes. As if the « greatness » Trump claims offering America « again » would actually consist in piling up signals of what usually fuels anti-Americanism around the world.
If any point for which the « Trump experience » is no match to what one may believe America is about, it’s on the « check & balance » and the tempering powers of the « civil society » – media, to begin with. I am old enough to remember how Richard « tricky Dicky » Nixon got torn apart because there was enough evidence that HE HAD BEEN LYING, leading him to eventually resign before he’d be brought to an impeachment trial he would have lost for sure. These were times before bigotry had overwhelmed the GOP, these were times when there was no such thing as « alternative facts », these were times when voters would not cluster in social media bubbles where they’d only see the « news » they want to see. Trump lies and deceives for a living, makes obscene and/or stupid statements and decisions every second day, got through an impeachment process and went away with it. New times.
Then, as seen from outside the US – especially from here in Europe which allegedly belongs to the same cultural area, the so-called « West » – with the Trump disaster it easily would be a temptation to say « Hmm, we don’t belong there, this is America, a different place, different history, different people. Trump is definitely their thing ». Well, this would overlook a couple of basic historical facts since the early 80’s: globalization, stock markets standing for the alpha and omega of most businesses, tax and public spending (other than military and security) being considered evil, skyrocketing inequalities – in short, what capitalism has become since it is no longer afraid of the soviets… all of it going hand in hand with left/central left parties worrying more about minorities of all kinds than about the fate of those they stood for in the first place – workers, employees. Let’s face it: we, the « free world », are also experiencing all these things. The point is, at least in Western Europe, it has not really and fully translated into political turmoils (the « populist » alliance in Italy eventually collapsed) threatening democracy itself. Yet. And fact of the matter is that, as for anything, America made it bigger, more obvious. And called it « Trump ». But same causes leading to same effects, we may very well generate our local versions of this crap.
In a famous op-ed dated September 12, 2001, Jean-Marie Colombani, chief editor of « Le Monde » at the time wrote « Nous sommes tous Américains ». This was almost twenty years ago and since then, we had many good reasons to say « wait a minute, not in my name, are you kidding or what? ». But when it comes to your next presidential election, considering what is at stake – no less than the kind of leadership our democratic systems are able to produce – I would kind of agree that yes, « we all are Americans » again. If only for the time of this election, but still.