A 32-year-long view on the US by a regular European guy

In 1988 (32 years ago) I went on a student’s exchange to the US, to Hill-Murray School in Maplewood, Minnesota. In the late 1980’s everybody in my class thought of the US as the big brother of Western Europe. The big kid that would always protect us. Around this time, I also became interested in politics for the first time and was impressed with George H.W. Bush, after all, he was a former director of the CIA, the arch-nemesis of the evil KGB.

So, the USA was the place to be. The land was bigger, the shops were bigger, everybody was (or at least appeared) more friendly and far less reserved than the people I knew. I learned, however, the quality of education in the US was very much dependent on the wealth of your parents. Public schools operated on a shoe-string budget, while private schools, like Hill-Murray, were funded by the parents of the students and offered far greater opportunities.

Still, since I enjoyed speaking English and due to family relations got a lot of practice, I seriously considered eventually moving to and/or go studying in the US.

Alas, in the final years of school, more doubts about the superiority of the US crept in. I found out, to my horror, that universal health care was not a thing in the US. Then, there were the Rodney King riots in 1992, which we discussed in school and which made painfully clear that the US still had a huge divide in wealth, education and the application of the law between white Americans and non-white Americans. I was aware that divides existed in Europe as well, but at least we did not have a justice system where wealth was a major factor in the length and severity of your sentence.

The next shocking thing about the United States I had not been aware of, was the existence of the Religious Right. When I first learned about them in a TV documentary, I thought it was satire. To me, the US was the country of NASA, of the MIT, of the people who put a man on the Moon, and of Silicon Valley. The fact that there was a significant chunk of the population believing in a literal interpretation of the Bible and actively looking forward to Armageddon seemed not only weird, it was a complete aberration of what the US meant to me.

Worse still, from the documentary then and what I have found out in the meantime (especially in the last four years) the Religious Right has very little in common with, for example, the teachings of Jesus, it is more like:

  • love the fetus, hate the child (especially if the baby is a girl) and the mother
  • abuse the Bible to do evil unto others while claiming moral superiority
  • religious freedom is for me, not for you
  • oppress the poor
  • worship money (Prosperity Gospel) and the rich
  • break the separation of church and state wherever you can

and especially in the last four years (as of the writing of this post):

  • choose someone who embodies every deadly sin as your leader because he supports your white nationalist agenda

I am coming back to this last point later.

I did not pay too much attention to US politics during the Clinton years but when George W. Bush was elected after Clinton, I started paying a lot of attention, mainly because he got a lot of bad press over here (for not being particularly qualified) right from the start. More importantly, he got that even from our more conservative news outlets.

When 9/11 led to the invasion of Iraq, a country that was not involved, there was also broad consensus over here that this was mainly for the oil and not because of WMDs. Which turned out to be true.
No WMDs in Iraq but lots of oil revenue for western companies in Iraq. Then, the human rights violations in Abu Ghraib prison were exposed and the US finally stopped being the big good guy for me. They became a regular state like any other.

When G.W. Bush’s second term came to an end, I was relieved that the two contenders for the Presidency, Barrack Obama and John McCain, both were intelligent, educated, dedicated and honorable people. In fact, I think that the US had a choice between two excellent candidates in 2008 and John McCain would have made the best Republican President in decades. His concession speech is the gold standard and historic:

Here speaks a man who only sought to serve his country, and that he did, to the end!

On this side of the Atlantic, we embraced Obama and were excited when he received the Nobel Peace Price. Alas, he did not quite live up to the expectations that led to him becoming a Nobel laureate, but he did a better job than George W. Bush. Also, by being the first African American President he set an example for non-white Americans and non-white people all over the world. Yes, you can! The Presidency was no longer a white men only club. There were signs of progress and the US rose in the esteem of the world again.

Barrack Obama’s tenure at the White House ended after two terms, and something no one over here expected but everyone feared happened:

A racist narcissist who was only looking to make a quick buck out of the Presidency took office.

From the very start it became clear, that this guy had no regard for diplomatic etiquette, literally shoving other leaders out of the way if it suited him. His praise for autocrats and the corrupt way he governed his country (just a few examples here):
He has the American tax payers finance his businesses, fires government officials for rightfully contradicting him and gives COVID aid preferentially to Republican-run states, and the unprecedented amount of nepotism.

There also was the praise for racists and neo-nazis, his reliance on fascist thugs and the petty refusal to unveil a portrait of President Barrack Obama.

All this would be bad enough, but in the last weeks, he has also shown how anti-democratic he really is.

When it became clear that reelection was not in the cards, he preemptively called the election process into question, and has since unleashed a storm of lies in a futile attempt to cling to an office he does not deserve.

The people have spoken more clearly than they did four years ago, but the loser is afraid to face reality.

And now I am coming back to something I mentioned earlier:

The Religious Right has overwhelmingly sided with someone who disgraced the office of the Presidency, someone with no decorum, a taste for dictatorship, a serial adulterer, someone who “grabs them by the pussy”, someone who never once attended a church service during his Presidency and who openly mocks the hardship of others.

They have rejected President-elect Biden, a practicing Catholic who is married to the same lady for more than 40 years and who is only married twice because he is a widower from a previous marriage.

By making this shameful choice, the Religious Right has declared their moral bankruptcy and their complete separation from the teachings of Jesus Christ.

By not supporting the impeachment of this stain on the White House, the Senate Republicans have put their own careers over the good of the country they have sworn to serve.

By not supporting President-elect Biden, every official in the current administration admits they do not care for freedom or democracy but just want things to go their way, no matter what.

In the past 32 years, the US has developed from the strong big brother we all admired, to becoming a deeply divided country that no longer represents the values it once claimed to uphold. The last occupant of the White House has shamed this great nation in the eyes of her allies while collecting praise from autocrats and dictators.

My hope is that in a few weeks, Joe Biden will become the President of the United States and will do all he can to heal his nation and restore its good name in the world.