Dear America

July 29, 2016

Dear America,

I am listening to Randy Newman.

 

“I’d like to say a few words, in defense of my country
Coz people aren’t bad nor are they mean
Now the leaders we have while they’re the worst that we’ve had
Are hardly the worst this poor world has seen…”

 

Great song. Newman, at his ironic best, goes on to compare presumably the Bush administration to the Caesars, Hitler, Stalin and King Leopold of Belgium. It got me thinking and as usual, when I start to think, I also have to write.

 

Now, I am not American, nor have I ever been to the United States of America. So what kind of authority do I have to speak about matters of American political life? Probably not a very big one. All I can say is that, being brought up during the 80s and 90s in a European middle class household, I was taught to believe that America was a shining beacon of freedom. I read those cowboy stories by German author Karl May, where there were good people on both sides, indians and cowboys, I had my mind travel the prairie with Winnetou, chief of the Apaches and his trustworthy friend Old Shatterhand, trying to act as agents between Whites and Redskins. Many years later, at University, I studied English and American Literature and Cultural History. I read about Abraham Lincoln, about the concepts of Manifest Destiny, the War of Independence, I read Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, I read John Winthrop and John Cotton, I read Thomas Paine and many more and I absorbed the history of the US like a sponge. I fell in love with the concept of America as a nation, welcoming the unfortunate with open arms and giving them the opportunity to make something of their lives. I fell in love with the American Dream.

 

Since this week however, following the end of the primary elections and the conventions of both, the GOP and the Democratic Party, it seems to me that now more than ever, your country is on the crossroads. Compared to campaigns in Germany, presidential elections in the USA have always been that little bit more theatrical. To us Europeans, it seems over the top most of the time. It always has been more about mud-slinging than about actual politics (at least as long as I can remember).

 

But throwing dirt has never been easier. People are unsettled by politics and politicians, a job that has lies and deceit seemingly anchored in its job description. People are unsettled because they’ve been fed too much bullshit in return for their votes. Candidates in the past have disillusioned people, alienated people. I admit it, I was a huge fan of Barack Obama. When he was elected as president, I was excited. Yes, we can! still rings in my ears. Even Bob Dylan publicly endorsed him. Eight years later, while I am not completely disillusioned by his presidency, I can see why people would be, because all the hype, all the expectations, the hope, has been replaced by a certain amount of hangover. He was not the messiah people (including me) had hoped for, he turned out to be human, with best intentions maybe, but flawed like the rest of us. (Note: At this point I could mention and explain that many of the ideas he had were actually blocked by a Republican majority in the senate, the same majority that now argues that Obama couldn’t change anything… get the irony?)

 

In the end I believe, Obama was bound to be a failure because however successful he could or might have been as a president, there was no way he could live up to the gigantic expectations loaded on his shoulders, to the hype that eventually got him elected.

 

But throwing dirt has never been easier. The middle class is failing (not only in America, people, in my country as well), big businesses making it harder and harder (borderline impossible) for small businesses to compete. Wall Street (or the financial elite) is paying off politicians to act in their (and not the people’s interest). Germany and America, doubtlessly two of the richest countries in the world have massive amounts of people living in poverty, so that the American government reintroduced food-stamps, while certain German politicians praise food kitchens. If this is your every day life, who can blame you for being fed up with politics. The truth is out there, evident on every day. Something is very wrong with the way some countries are run. Also, with the rise of super terrorism, fear among people is growing and pictures are being painted of a faceless enemy in the east that will come and kill you (if this sounds a bit too much Lord of the Rings for you, I apologise!).

 

Now, it is understandable that in times of trouble, in times of insecurity and in times of worry, people are looking for answers and up steps a candidate that has spent his whole life trying to establish himself as the embodiment of success. Donald Trump is a bully who has said of himself that “you can never be too greedy”. He is like a child, at first enthusiastic about ventures and once he faces difficulties, he let’s them rot in the corner. To find examples, all you really need to do is google “Donald Trump business failures”. And yes, the Forbes Magazine rightfully claims that every entrepreneur experiences manifold business failures throughout his career, but not every entrepreneur builds large parts of his political campaign around the fact that he is a flawless businessman and will run the country with the same sort of success than he runs his businesses.

 

There is more though. The president is supposed to not only run a country but also to represent this country, to be the face of this country to the world. Do you want your country to look – and worst of all – think like Donald Trump? I am definitely not going to make jokes about his hair or any other of his body parts. Personally, I don’t care. I don’t want a politician to be beautiful or sexy, I want him or her to be smart and wise and considerate and classy in every way. I want him to behave in a way that he can be regarded as a role-model. Can this be said of Donald Trump? Judge for yourselves, here are some of Donald Trump’s quotes:

 

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bring crime. They’re rapists… And some, I assume, are good people.” 

 

“The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families. They care about their lives, don’t kid yourself. When they say they don’t care about their lives, you have to take out their families.”

 

“If I were running ‘The View’, I’d fire Rosie O’Donnell. I mean, I’d look at her right in that fat, ugly face of hers, I’d say ‘Rosie, you’re fired.’” 

 

“It’s freezing and snowing in New York – we need global warming!” 

 

“I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”

 

“The point is, you can never be too greedy.”

 

“Nobody cares about the talent [in beauty pageants]. There’s only one talent you care about, and that’s the look talent. You don’t give a shit if a girl can play a violin like the greatest violinist in the world. You want to know what does she look like.” —

 

“Laziness is a trait in the blacks. … Black guys counting my money! I hate it.”

 

“I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters”

 

“I was gonna hit a couple of people so hard their heads would spin. That’s why some people still don’t endorse me, because they still haven’t recovered.”

 

“So if you see somebody with tomatoes, knock the crap out of them, will you? Seriously. Just knock the hell… I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees, I promise.”

 

Now, close your eyes and imagine your child behaved like Donald Trump behaves. Imagine your child said the things Donald Trump goes on record with to other children or to you. Would that make you happy? Proud? Would you stand up and say: “I love my child, because he tells it like it is?” Well…

 

Donald Trump says that political correctness is one of the primary sources of all that is wrong in politics today, but is it? If this was comedy, I would agree with him. Comedy and arts do not necessarily need to be PC. Quite the contrary. In both, comedy and arts, I expect people to be outspoken, to break rules. Why? Because it is necessary. Because it is helpful to point out problems, but most of all, because we know it is not real. Randy Newman is the best example. He is anything but politically correct and I love him for that, but he is a singer, not a politician. When Jim Jefferies has a piece about Bill Cosby raping women it makes you feel bad but at the same time it’s undeniably funny. It’s funny, because we know that Jim Jefferies does not actually advocate rape (he even says so to make sure everyone understands!). Jim Jefferies though is a comedian, not a politician. When I went to Dublin a couple of years ago, I met a stand-up comedian called Gary Lynch who did a short routine about Anne Frank. It was funny, not because the fate of Anne Frank or the Holocaust is funny, but because we knew how to take it, because it was so over the top and absurd that even though it made you feel bad, you couldn’t help but laugh. Gary Lynch as well is a comedian, not a politician. What I am trying to say is that we know that comedy is not reality. Comedy and arts help us to deal with reality. Help us to forget about reality for a while. Maybe even help us to cope with reality in a way. But politics? Politics is reality, politics is serious and yes, politics need to be pc – it’s even in the word. To be not politically correct, to be actually offending people is wrong, if nowhere else, it is wrong in politics. Your aim in politics is to find a solution to problems, not to piss anybody off. Your aim in politics should be to work together with people that have different opinions and approaches and compromise not to bulldoze your way through regardless. If what makes your political arguments worth remembering are generalisations, racist outbursts, advocating war crimes, sexist remarks appeals to violence they are not very good arguments, are they? His arguments are even more flawed by the fact that he constantly is flip flopping with his opinions. Mind you, flip flopping is not being open-minded to better solutions, being open to having his opinion changed by better arguments. Flip flopping means constantly contradicting unconsciously or worse, consciously.

 

But worst of all, Donald Trumps main principles are fear and hate. He tries to scare the shit out of people because he knows the power of fear. Fear defeats rationality. Donald Trump knows that if you are not afraid, you will not vote for him. Fear of rapists from Mexico that come to steal your money. Fear that every Muslim is a potential terrorist. Fear that is slowly built to establish the firm belief that nobody but him will save America. Super Donald. While statistics prove that violent crime rates are shrinking, he claims that people “feel less save” and vows to “make America save again”. Well, if you feel less save at the same time that crime rate is actually shrinking, than this can only be explained with someone actively creating fears. Now who would that be? Trump will argue that numbers are insignificant if people don’t feel it. Well…

 

This is not me saying the world is great. It isn’t. The world, most of the time is a bad place. Terror can’t be denied. Greed can’t be denied. Hunger can’t be denied. War crimes can’t be denied. War can’t be denied. Racism, shootings, the list is endless…

 

But let me remind you that decisions based on fear are usually the worst decisions you will make. Take any horror movie. The couple rashly runs into the forest, scared because it feels it’s being followed and because of that sudden stroke of irrationality meets its fate in form of an axe or whatever the killer favours. You yourself in your cosy theatre seat think: “Why the hell are they doing this? Don’t run into the forest, you dope, every child knows this!” It’s exactly my point, decisions based on fear are not rational decisions, so when somebodies campaign is built around scaring the shit out of you, don’t fall for him, don’t vote for him.

 

Having said that, it is ok to be worried, it is also ok to be scared. The only thing that is not ok is to let your fear be the basis of your decision making and your vote, especially not when a candidate tries everything in his power to provide you with a whole arsenal of reasons as to why you should be afraid and who you should be afraid of. While it is natural and understandable to do so, it is also worth mentioning that spreading hate, that scapegoating and finger-pointing have never solved a single problem in the world. All they do is create further division at a time where the world is divided like hardly ever before.

So before you go out and scar your beautiful country from sea to shining sea by casting a vote for the probably most divisive candidate with a chance for the White House in your history, please may I remind you that the only reason your country as it is today exists, because in the very early days of European settlement on the land, Indians, natives, helped the settlers that had fled from religious and political persecution helped them through the harsh winters and offered them food and helped them build shelter?

 

May I remind you that the only reason your country as it is today exists, because immigrants from Europe that came in the 18th and 19th century and that were looking for a better life (today you would probably call them economic refugees), trying to escape the poverty in the Old World helped the westward expansion and the helped with what your forefathers called Manifest Destiny?

May I remind you of a poem by Emma Lazarus that graces your very own symbol of America, the New Colossus, the Statue of Liberty?

 

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breath free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

 

May I remind you that the very principles on which your country is built, the very principles that you never hesitate to let others now and at times even brand burgers and fries with, and that are manifested in the preamble of the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men.”

 

Now, I’m not saying that I hate Donald Trump because I am a fan of Hillary Clinton. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a fan of Hillary Clinton. She has a history of flip flopping on arguments herself, she remains vague in her political agenda as well, to me she lacks the empathy necessary to be a good president. If it had been up to me, I would have loved to see Bernie Sanders as president, mainly because he seemed – much like Obama – to be willing to not only change the country, but improve it for those people whose living conditions are in dire need of improvement.

 

Now, I can hear you say that Bernie Sanders has lost all his credibility by endorsing Hillary Clinton (again Donald Trump found the “right words” and claimed on twitter that Bernie had “caved”). The outrage on social media was enormous and in a way I can understand this. Bernie fought Hillary and almost won (maybe he would have won hadn’t Hillary’s campaign mainly focused on undermining Bernie’s campaign), but I can still see why he did it. Bernie is smart enough to know that, in order for Hillary to win the elections and to convince Bernie’s supporters to vote for her, she has to shift her agenda to the left, which means moving much closer to Bernies agenda. He also knows that compared to Donald Trump, Hillary is the much lesser of two evils and that the only way to beat The Donald is to unify the Democratic Party… plus you maybe get Bill to play saxophone in the White House. Groovy.

 

In Germany, quite a significant number of people turn to right wing parties not because they believe in their ideals, but out of protest. Their goal is to show the established parties that the power still lies with the people and that for too long their votes have been taken for granted and I can understand this. But much like fear, protesting is a bad reason to vote for radical candidates. Remember that one interview that went viral after Brexit? The woman who said she had voted leave and then was surprised it actually happened? Do you really want to wake up on November 9, 2016, thinking: “Shit! Trump won! I didn’t want that!” Be loud, protest, make your voice heard, but don’t do it by voting for a radical, racist, sexist, chauvinist, self-righteous candidate who openly admits that he thinks of his own daughter as fuck-meat. If you truly believe, with all your heart, that Donald Trump is the best you deserve and the best you can get. Vote for him. It is your right. But if somewhere deep down you know that this is going to be a mistake, don’t, simply don’t! Don’t let Donald Trump turn from a joke, to a threat, to a protest movement, to a four-year hangover.

 

No matter what the media will tell you, no matter what either candidate will tell you, be wise, America, be smart America and be canny. Remember what made you what you are today. Remember that fear is not what brings you through the night. Remember that division is what makes you weaker. And remember, if nothing else, that “you can never be too greedy” is the root of most of our problems, not the solution.

Now, Randy Newman has been awfully quiet with new songs these days. It would be interesting to hear his point of view in his typical nasal, cynical style. Can you hear him?Truuuump, Donald Truuuuump, claims to be a preeeeeeeesident of the UUUUUUUUU S A. Can you hear him? I can hear him!

Be wise, America, be smart America and be canny.

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