Adventure: Changing Faces

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What remains of the former US Steel plant.

When you live in the United States, you often hear that our behavior at home doesn’t really impact our overall status in the big, bad world. It’s true, at least to some degree. People still dream of coming to America. In fact, I just heard this very thing from someone here in Albania. I get it. I really do. The United States, in many ways, is a great place. Land of the free, home of the brave, at least in theory. Economic disparity, racism, corruption, greed, faltering health care and education systems get overlooked on the hunt for opportunity. And we do offer opportunity.

But to say that our behavior doesn’t influence our status in the world isn’t entirely accurate.

Case in point: Donald J. Trump. Regardless of how you feel about good old Donny Dipshit, you have to admit, he left a mark. Untrained, uneducated, prone to tantrums, hate speech and foot-in-mouth moments, Trump brought a new look to American leadership. Trump didn’t know what Yosemite was, thought his wife was from the Balkans not the Baltics, thought Finland was part of Russia, wanted to nuke a hurricane, advised us to inject bleach to kill COVID and tossed around missile attacks on Mexico. And this was just his first week. (Kidding about the timeline but not about this list of his deeds.) He has no knowledge or interest in policy, foreign or domestic, and according to one of his former advisors, his only real goal was chaos which served as a perfect smokescreen for his unethical happenings behind the scenes.

Again, you might love the guy. I don’t care. Personally, I think we need to hit rock bottom as a culture before we rebuild our nation in a more intelligent fashion, so for me, people like Trump–and there are quite a few–will help us speed this process. If we survive, we rebuild. But people like this have certainly changed our reputation worldwide.

Now, when I’m out and about in the wilds of the foreign world, I get “What were you guys thinking?” “Was there no one else running?” “How does someone with no experience get THAT job?” “He’s hilarious but what a disaster.” “We love Americans but you can keep that guy.” I get people innocently asking questions about racism, about just how dangerous it is to be Jewish and live in the US, and about how a country of immigrants can suddenly attempt to rewrite history to make it sound like we all came from Tupelo, Mississippi.

I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to many places that have been impacted by American policy. I’ve experienced borderline hatred and overwhelming love and support. But I can now see and feel a slow turning of the screws as America begins a gradual slide from the pedestal. And for you Dems thinking you are coming out of this post unscathed, NOBODY talks about Biden and crew. It’s like he doesn’t exist. This isn’t good either.

America has a chance to start doing the right thing, but I fear we are so divided we would never even be able to agree what that right thing actually is. Simple things like “Is racism bad?” “Is violence bad? “Is white nationalism bad?” And suddenly half our country glitches and freezes up. And here is where the storm clouds come into play. I just had a conversation with a former Croatian soldier. I told him I was surprised by how quickly the war in the Balkans began. (Back in the early 1990s.) He said “Dan, we all lived together, for over fifty years, but certain deeds were done which divided the population. People fell back into their own groups, types and religions because it was suddenly the only place they felt safe.” “After that, it didn’t take much to light the fire.”

I’m writing this post from a country that up until recent, historical times, lived under a repressive, dictatorship. For fifty-years they were isolated from the world. Executions, labor camps, total surveillance of the population. One man driven to divide and conquer brought this reality. When I look and listen to modern America I see and feel some of the same undercurrents. “Us and them,” “Good people on both sides,” “loyalists.” I see a massive rise in hate crime. I see people dividing up, sinking back and pointing fingers.

I see major initiatives in revisionist history.

The good news, we have huge opportunity to improve. Every major system is faltering, but if we make intelligent, rational, science based plans, and set realistic expectations, we have at least a chance to survive.(Actual science, and don’t start climate denier types.) We need to remove politics from issues that don’t concern politics and we have to ask more of the people we put in power. Policy not party is step one. I for one am so tired of the partisan nonsense America thrives on. If you are one of these people who are still talking about Trump going to jail or if you think Hunter Biden’s laptop has any relevance whatsoever, no offense, but you are an idiot. We, and they, are all accessories to the crime.

Living in our little bubbles, listening to what we want to hear got us to where we are today. You visit a country held hostage for fifty years and you might feel a little different when it comes to the storm clouds gathering over Washington.

Comments 4

  1. It’s a luxery to be able to visit a country a couple of times, talk to it inhabitants and let them tell their stories and project their visions. Again a great piece full of analyses. Going rock bottom is my vision too on the evolution for the near century. I’ll have a treat now, scared to think how the process will all look like.

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      For me it’s the only way. One trip and superficial work just doesn’t cut it. It’s been this way since I started, but I know for others it’s always about the new. I have friends who count countries and collect stamps.

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