• What Happened to America?

    Like the rest of the world, I have been aghast at what I have seen of, and read and heard about, what is happening currently in the United States.  It seems incredible that a once great country should be suffering the worst effects and the highest number of deaths worldwide from the coronavirus pandemic, that there should be forty million who have lost their jobs, and that the country should now be engaged in a kind of informal and undeclared civil war, in which American cities are on fire and armed groups of white supremacists fire at and kill demonstrators protesting about the killing of an unarmed black man by the police.

    How did it come to this?  How did the world’s most powerful and wealthy country descend into such incompetence, division, chaos and violence – and disintegration?

    Who, it might be asked, is supposed to be in charge here?  Who should be taking responsibility for the manifold failures and mis-steps that have led to this painful breakdown?

    In most countries – democratic countries at least – the finger would have been pointed squarely at “the government”.  But, in America, the government is often seen to be a one-man band, and that is especially so when the President of the day acts as if he is the boss of a corporation and is able to rule by decree.

    The responsibility for the crisis, or rather, the crises, can be laid, in other words, only at one door.  Donald Trump claims to have unbridled power.  What has he done with the power he claims?

    One is tempted to say that he has done nothing, that his failures are of omission rather than commission, that there is a vacuum at the heart of Washington, and that he has preferred to spend his time playing golf and tweeting incessantly, rather than addressing the problems that confront him and the country. 

    But this charge sheet, substantial though it may be, covers only part of his derelictions.  It does not capture the full range of his failings.  He has not only failed to address, let alone resolve, the country’s deep-seated fault lines; he has actually made them – through his own words and actions – worse, more damaging and destructive.

    Instead of bringing his people together, as a true leader would have done, he has chosen to throw fuel on the fire and to focus on casting around for someone else to blame for the catastrophes (not too strong a word) that have befallen his country.

    The US is, in other words, suffering from a massive failure of leadership.  The man who has found himself facing these unprecedented challenges has been totally ill-equipped to deal with them.  His focus has been elsewhere – and much closer to home.  When he wakes up in the morning, his first thought is not for the millions of his countryman who are suffering or who have died, but for himself and his own chances of being re-elected.

    At a time when the country has desperately needed a leader who can create, lead and deploy a national determination to act constructively together, he has been preoccupied with his own personal goals; he has instead represented the divisions, prejudices and intolerance that distort American civil society and that so easily lead to violence, discrimination and anger.

    But the failure is not just his alone.  The failures that have brought about the current collapse and disruption are those of a whole governing class.  Trump occupies his current office and commits his damaging derelictions of duty only by leave of his Republican colleagues.  His failures are their failures too.

    And we too share in those failures.  When the US is wounded and weakened, we are all worse off.

    Bryan Gould

    9 June 2020

1 Comment

  1. John Drinnan says: May 31, 2020 at 11:44 pmReply

    Surely such horrific incidents have always existed. The difference now is social media and routine access to phones that can take movies.