I Just Don’t Understand Americans


I’ve long been somewhat of a politics/history junkie, and as such I read a lot about both topics, from ancient times to modern; I read about events, wars, issues, personalities, elections, debates, governance, and the philosophy of politics. I read books, newspapers, websites, magazines, social media, and more books. I don’t have cable TV, however, but I do get to several reliable media sites online every day, including BBC, CBC, Al Jazeera, Atlantic, Reuters, Spiegel, Agence France Presse, Forbes, Macleans, New York Times, The Star,  Globe & Mail, Slate, and others.* 

So even though I am not an American, I like to think that, for a foreigner, I am reasonably well acquainted with American history, geography, and politics. It’s hard not to be at least somewhat aware, when it’s splashed all over every paper, website, social media, and radio news even in Canada. I try to be well-informed about the events and issues that affect our biggest trading partner and (sometimes uncomfortably close) neighbour because they always affect us here.

But for all my reading and attention, some days I just don’t get Americans. Don’t get me wrong: I have known and loved many Americans over the years; I count quite a few Americans among my friends or at least friendly acquaintances. I’ve worked for them, I’ve travelled with them, had sex with them, I’ve partied with them, played music with them, and danced with them. I’ve sipped tequila with them in a tiny bar tucked away in the hills of central Mexico, and I’ve played wargames and paintball with them. But when it comes to politics, I just don’t get them.

Why would ANYONE have voted for Donald Trump? It was like standing on a train track seeing the light coming towards you at full speed, hearing the whistle warning, and yet staying on the track because you believed it would pass you by and hit someone else.

Come on, folks: it splattered body parts all over the nation. He’s spent almost four years proving he’s a racist, intolerant, lying, narcissist, fake-Christian, barely literate, uneducated, vindictive, nasty clown doing his best to destroy the United States economically, environmentally, socially, and politically. He is shredding your nation’s democracy as we speak, undermining your Constitution, destroying your ability to vote,  and making Vladimir Putin a very happy man. He mishandled the pandemic at the cost millions of jobs, a worse economic collapse than the Great Depression, and more than 170,000 deaths (and rising). He mishandled international trade at the cost millions of jobs and hikes to consumer prices. He alienated every ally in Europe and North America. He has screwed education, tried to sell Puerto Rico, wanted to use atomic bombs on hurricanes, thinks windmills cause cancer, put incompetent sycophants into the Supreme Court, golfed this term more often than most people golf in their entire lives, and played footsie with America’s sworn enemies.

The whole fucking world is laughing at Trump and his blundering, his ineptitude, his unpresidential shenanigans. And they’re looking aghast at the overt fascism being rolled in. Unidentified, armed federal agents kidnapping people off the streets. Children separated from parents and put in cages for years, suffering abuse and sexual assault. Billionaires making billions more because of his tax cuts to the already-rich while workers lose jobs, rights, and benefits. Is this how you want American and its leaders to be perceived?

So who in their right mind would vote for him again? Especially now there’s a reasonable alternative in another candidate (and an excellent choice for VP) who can help the country heal and regain its stature in the world. Not the perfect candidate, sure, but in comparison the two Democrats simply outweigh the incumbents in ethics, morality, humility, public spirit, and intelligence.

Apparently, being in your right mind is not a requirement to vote for Trump or his enablers (Moscow Mitch McConnell, Lindsay “Vlad’s Boy” Graham, and the other crypto-fascists). Voting for any of them would be like asking to be disembowelled right after the executioner had lopped off your arms.  I just don’t get it. Who does that to themselves?

Americans in large numbers are protesting wearing face masks** even though these help stop the corona virus from spreading. Church leaders outright lie and tell their flocks that masks are “against god’s will.” Other crazies claim it violates their civil rights or cuts their oxygen (it does neither). Armed groups stormed the Michigan state capital to protest measures to limit the virus’ spread because they are inconvenient for shopping. And others just ignore any restrictions. None of them give a shit about the health or wellbeing of everyone around them, just their own convenience. Meanwhile, their government is aggressively and systematically tearing down their democracy and disenfranchising them, yet these same people don’t bat an eye.

Your whole “land of the free” country is being turned into a totalitarian dictatorship and you’re protesting because you can’t get your nails done or buy doughnuts without wearing a mask? That’s batshit crazy selfish. I just don’t get Americans. And while the US is floundering, rudderless in the grips of a pandemic that will kill more than 200,000 Americans this year, what is the president worrying about (when he’s not golfing that is)? Washing his hair:

The US government has proposed changing the definition of a showerhead to allow increased water flow, following complaints from President Donald Trump about his hair routine.

The other day I was in one of those Facebook comment vortices with an American I know from a shared week-long trip to central Mexico, some years back. Then he seemed like a rational, smart, funny guy. That was then. Now, he’s a passionate Trump supporter and spews hatred against anything Democrat or liberal. That always makes me question the mental stability of anyone who makes that claim, because clearly they are blind to the events happening around them. But hey, we’re friends, sort-of, so I try to overlook his declining mental condition. Sometimes.

In response to a post about their upcoming elections (one that argued what issues the election was about without naming names or parties, insulting anyone, or making accusations)***, he commented,

Biden doesn’t even know his own name. This is the best the Dems can do?
Vote red. Don’t be fooled. Even if you hate Trump. Think before you just vote a party.

I’m used to this sort of attack-deflection-non sequitur; in my experience, conservatives and Republicans (aka Repugnicans) online don’t respond to issues well, but try to turn everything into a confrontation and ad hominem attacks. And deflect, deflect, deflect. They are always the victim and they always blame someone else. I responded (one of many responses) with a modest attempt poke at his Beloved Leader:

How’d you fall for that conspiracy nonsense? Would you REALLY vote for Putin’s Puppet? 

My playful nickname for Trump reflects his well-known obeisance to Russia’s dictator and the work Trump has done to serve Russia’s goals in destroying America. No, I didn’t call him a traitor, but I’m sure others might. Anyway, to which my acquaintance again fired off a non-sequitur:

are you not just the queen of England’s puppet? 

Do Americans really believe that? Or was he being humorous in return? Americans are on the whole, woefully ignorant of anything outside their own borders (and not much better about inside them). It’s possible Americans think we are villeins  in servitude to the Queen, tugging the forelock at her picture. 

I spent some time searching for articles on what Americans think happens in Canada. For example, a piece from 2013 was titled “Canadians Understand Americans, But Americans Are Ignorant About Canada.” This, and other articles and YouTube videos, decried the lamentable state of American education about anything beyond their borders, even nearby Canada. I get it: the whole constitutional monarchy thing with a parliamentary democracy is so vastly different from America’s system of governance that it might be difficult for outsiders to comprehend. But Queen’s puppet? How did the conversation get turned around from Trump to me? Oh, of course: rightwing deflection.

I responded with a hint of jocularity,

No, I prefer to think of myself as her serf.  

I don’t actually: that’s just a tie-in to a funny skit in Monty Python’s Holy Grail movie about the way to choose a government. Hope he got the clue.

But 40% of Americans DIDN’T choose their government because they couldn’t be bothered to vote in 2016, so the nation ended up with an inexperienced, inept narcissist with the IQ of a road kill squirrel, combined with the vindictiveness of a thousand ISIS fanatics. A self-inflicted wound.

But not to digress excessively here’s what I also said to my FB “friend” with another poke at his president’s record:

…I’m pretty sure the Queen never paid the Taliban a bounty on our Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan. Or paid off any prostitutes to keep them silent about her adultery. Or publicly called anyone in government an insulting name or demeaning nickname. Or mocked a disabled person at a public rally. Or publicly encouraged supporters to acts of violence against protestors at a rally. And as white as she is, I’m pretty sure she isn’t a racist who calls neo-Nazis “good people.” I’m pretty sure she never took credit for the work or legislation of others, either. And although I haven’t read all of her speeches, I’m pretty sure she has not uttered so many lies that the media is losing count.

I’m pretty sure she also never called brave women who rose in politics through long, difficult struggles in a deeply patriarchal system “nasty” while saying she wished a female sex trafficker and procurer of her close acquaintance “well.” But Trump did.

I’m not a monarchist but even so I admit the Queen has class, gravitas, decency, honesty, and intelligence. Which the US president lacks any shred of (or ethics, morality, religion, or education). I respect the Queen, even though I think inherited titles and power are anachronistic and should have long ago been banished to the history books. I trust her to speak the truth and act in a manner appropriate to her station. I trust Trump to lie, insult, attack, and con in a puerile, self-centred manner. Somewhat of a difference, methinks.

So, okay, if that’s being a the Queen’s puppet, I’d rather be hers than Putin’s.

In subsequent tweets, Trump tossed out words as insults, whose actual meaning he clearly has no conception of. Words like “radical left” which he called his opponents, and his followers parrot with equal ignorance. So I also tossed in my views about the alleged American “left”:

And PLEASE don’t call Biden or Harris “left”. Americans have no concept of the left, of socialism, or even liberalism. You don’t have a left wing or leftist party. The rest of the world sees your “left” as modestly right-of-centre at its most radical. Biden was chosen as a “moderate” because Sanders was too much like a Canadian to suit the rightwing Democrats (of which there are many). The last time Americans had anything even close to a left wing was under FDR, and even then by outside standards, he was a moderate centrist.
Americans toss around terms like socialist, liberal, and communist in their word salad, but clearly with no understanding of what those words mean except as insults.

Americans are polarized along an imagined right-left axis. As if they actually had anything remotely close to a left wing — it’s really a right-more right axis. Sure, there are moderates who don’t lean as far right as others, but there is nothing even remotely close to, say, Canada’s NDP (a problem that comes from only having two parties to choose from). For Americans, being radical means not having seven flags on your lawn, a lifetime NRA membership, and owning an AR-15. Calling any American left is as factual as calling them argyle socks.

But the US election isn’t about right vs left, or even Democrat vs Repugnican any more. Those fault lines are ossified and unlikely to change. It’s really about right or wrong.  And not just one wrong, it’s about righting a thousand or more wrongs, about undoing and healing four years of harm. It’s about saving the country from its accelerating slide into fascism. it’s about choosing what face Americans want to show the world: moral or immoral. I wrote:

What you have to chose from is not right or left, but between ethical or not, moral or not, truthful or well-documented liar, humble or narcissist, inclusive or nepotist, competent or inept bumbler, monogamous or adulterer, fair to women or misogynist with multiple charges of rape and sexual assault, patriotic or sycophantic to Putin and other warlords.
Spoiler alert: Trump is the latter of the choices.

I’m just an old, cranky socialist, living in a peaceful socialist country, so I have no dog in this fight. My views on the American election are simply my opinions, formed from decades of observation and reading, but they’re just opinions and have no more merit than, say, the opinions of the bloviators on Fox “news”.

Canadians have our problems and problem leaders here, of course. Mine is a great country but not perfect by any measure. Nor are any of our leaders; they are imperfectly human, and sometimes atrocious and stupid (and not simply Brian Mulroney and Stephen Harper, although they set the bar.) We have our own fair share of covidiots and conservatives doing their best to undermine the greater good.

Sure, I can  gloat over our universal healthcare, our generally good education system, our sane and humane gun control laws, and our parliamentary system that doesn’t allow leaders to become dictators. In fact, our leaders have to get up on the floor of parliament and debate one another in the open, whereas Trump only pontificates. Our party leaders have to run and win their seats just like other members. And even then they can be dethroned by the party at any time if the caucus feels the leader strayed too far, proved inept, or corrupt. We call it “accountability.” Something I find missing in too many other governance models.

So maybe my perspective on Americans is a bit skewed by being a snooty Canadian with enough education and literacy not to be fooled by Trump or his rightwing cabal of self-serving sycophants. But I might suggest that I’m not alone: the rest of the civilized world feels much the same (well, not the neo-nazis, of course, or the KKK, the Aryan Nation, or the dictators in Russia or North Korea: they all love Trump).

But I will never understand how Americans let his happen, or why they continue to let him demolish their nation and their democracy so openly. Not all, of course: there are many decent, concerned, intelligent, compassionate Americans. My American friends — most of them — are rational, caring, intelligent people who are even more aghast at their situation than I am, and will work to change it this election.  But I fear there may be enough of the selfish, uninformed, or simply uncaring who won’t vote again this year and thus allow the madness to continue to its inevitable conclusion: totalitarianism.

I can only hope for the opposite.


* I try to avoid, however, getting into the rigidly ideological (and thus lacking journalistic credibility) media such as the National Post, Fox “news,” Breitbart, and Infowars. Most of these are merely echo chambers for the already-committed conservative/Republican crowd. Although I lean left (the real left, not the faux American “left” which is right of centre in other nations), I will always read a difference of opinion from mine when cogently argued; I just can’t be bothered with the intolerance and vituperation in these rightwing sources. You can always check a source’s bias and its credibility on sides like Media Bias, although not all Canadian or international media may be listed.

** Canada has its own anti-mask loonies, as well. Thousands of unmasked, selfish, inconsiderate, pro-disease Quebeckers marched in protest August 8 to show solidarity with their American covidiots. Quebec has the fourth-highest rate of COVID-19 infections in Canada right now, but stay tuned: in a couple of weeks I expect their number to jump because of these crackpots. What bothers me most is that our covidiots expect to be treated by our public, taxpayer-funded healthcare system when they catch the virus, as if they didn’t do anything to deserve it.

*** It included such non-partisan statements as,

You’re voting for the next Secretary of Education, Housing Secretary and Attorney General.
You’re voting for former incarcerated persons to be treated with dignity and assisted to be proud and productive members of society when they return.
You’re voting so that there will be Social Security and Medicare when you retire…and in your children’s future.
You’re voting for rural hospitals.
You’re voting so that everyone can have access to affordable health insurance.

PS. As of Aug. 9, 2020, Trump has gone golfing at his own resorts, all paid for by the taxpayers (including his security and transportation) 285 times this term.:

… his pace as of Aug. 6, 2018 now indicates Trump would spend as much as 745 days of his presidency at a golf course if he wins a second term and serves both terms to completion.
Trump ended 2017 with 91 golf course visits and was just shy of 100 visits in Year 1 as President. In his second year as President, Trump played golf 76 times.
Trump has spent nearly 22 percent of his days in office at one of his golf properties for some portion of the day.

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Ian Chadwick
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One comment

  1. https://www.newsweek.com/europeans-say-covid-19-revealed-america-fragile-inconsiderate-1523860?fbclid=IwAR0Ov-lTWDp0HGRbdXU5O2qN1Yw_cOgkBpyGdiCCpZGJNQwK04mz6GeUDb8
    Many Europeans are asking if Americans even care about their people’s own health, as they have watched in astonishment at the world’s most powerful country faltering in its response to the coronavirus pandemic.
    “We Italians always saw America as a model,” said Massimo Franco, columnist with daily Corriere della Sera newspaper. “But with this virus we’ve discovered a country that is very fragile, with bad infrastructure and a public health system that is nonexistent.”

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