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Two Friends an Ocean Apart on America’s Biggest Challenge

I received an email from a friend who lives in Europe. With his permission, I am sharing it (I added the photos here). He’s a progressive supporter of the social structure of the European Union and also believes America played a key role restoring the world in the aftermath of WWII. He’s worried about us. So am I.

Hi Michael,

You and I have discussed and exchanged numerous emails on Trump and the election just gone. I do remember back in 2015/16 you gave me your uncensored view of him, his corruption, selfishness and narcissism. You spoke of people you knew who had suffered bankruptcy because of him. I thought there may have been some exaggeration on your part…..not anymore.

The reason for this email is not to recount all those conversations/emails but tell you how profoundly upset I have been over the political grandstanding and positioning since the election cumulating in the events of last week. Trying to analyse the upset I feel I realised how important the US is to the rest of the world. How, it has been a refuge for many peoples down the years and despite its many faults is a beacon of reason and hope. Turning its back to the rest of the world does not make the world a better place. In fact, the world has been the poorer by having Trump and his followers around.

Words matter and I can only hope that the likes of Ted Cruz and his like will be silenced. I do hope that Biden succeeds in uniting the country into common goals whether it is conquering Covid or rebuilding your infrastructure and investing in your people. A large part of the world are wishing him, you and the rest of the people of the US success.

Then I can continue our conversations as to how Europe has a better social model to the US and teach you the error of your ways.

Warm regards

Hi ****,

It was so great to hear from you. Happy and healthy New Year to both of you as well! I was so moved by your email. I have many friends whom, over the years, viewed my intense concern about Donald Trump as bordering on paranoia. I wish they were right. But to be honest, I underestimated him. He may not be a not a smart man by conventional standards but he is amazingly capable of finding ways to satisfy his extreme malignant narcissism, which he does at any cost. That said, the fact that more than 70 million of my fellow Americans voted for him worries me about our future.

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Sadly, Donald Trump has exposed to the entire world just how vulnerable America actually is. However, Donald Trump is not the sole perpetrator of our trouble, he is a symbol of it, he accelerated it and he made it far worse. Until recently, I never understood just how fragile our democracy actually is. As a result, the world is entering a significant era of uncertainty. I fear that the age of American leadership and Western enlightened democracy may be over.

The events of last week are still sinking into the national consciousness. Additional videos are slipping into public view showing the attack was far more violent than originally perceived. Clearly, it was not a spontaneous event. It was well planned and supported by the President of the United States and I worry about how deeply Trumpism is quietly embraced in our local police forces, including the Capitol Police.

I believe America is at a major fork in the road and I pray Trump and his supporters overplayed their hand on January 6. We have seen a number of political leaders who previously remained silent about his antics who have finally said “enough!” Recent polls suggest that a majority of Americans believe he should be removed from office immediately to prevent him from doing any further damage to our democracy. However, the Founding Fathers purposely made the removal of the President a very complicated and difficult process and it has never been attempted so close to the end of a term. Barring any other shocking events, it is difficult to see how it will happen.

I have always cherished the ideals of this country even though I recognized our substantial failings. Since the end of WWII, America led the world through a largely peaceful and stable period. There were many bumps in the road, quite a few of our own doing but we were mostly successful because we stood with a strong commitment to our ideals and had partners around the world who largely shared them.

Even so, I have long been painfully aware how imperfect we are. At a macro level, America’s biggest deficiency is that we have failed totally to make opportunity, freedom and protection equal among all of our citizens. I have come to understand that people of color live in a very different America than the one I live in and the past four years shined a huge bright light on that fact.

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I can translate this into my personal experience. I grew up in Florida in the 1960’s, when Florida was still considered a “southern state.” When I was very young and my brain was still being hardwired, I thought nothing about gas stations having 3 bathrooms, Men, Women, and Colored or two water fountains, White and Colored. I finally understand how this has impacted me for all of my years and I am seriously trying to deal with the damage. I have come to the view that white America must be accountable for our history and must right these wrongs.

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As depressing as this response may be, I still have hope. Sometimes you have to hit bottom in order to begin recovery. For the short term, I fear there will be more unrest and violence. I lived through that a half a century ago and we survived. We legislated changes in voting rights, civil rights and other personal freedoms. It made things better but America’s dark underbelly of systemic racism chipped away at those important advances bringing us to where we are today. “I can’t breathe” is a 21st century version of a burning cross or a noose hanging from a tree as threatening reminders of just who is in charge.

My optimism arises out of watching my grown children and their generation. There is far less internalized racism in them. They do not view bringing genuine equality to all Americans as a zero sum game. Instead, they believe all ships rise with a rising tide. And my kids will live half their lives in a nation that is not a majority white. I genuinely believe America’s diversity is a grossly under-utilized asset because we have not embraced it. Luckily we will have no choice in the second half of the 21st century but to accept it.

****, thank you for reaching out to me. I have been boiling over with emotions and thoughts about where our troubled nation is today. You have no idea how much it helped me to sit down and write a response to your note. I look forward to getting vaccinated and able to return to normal life. As part of that, I hope we will get to see one another in person sometime in 2021.

Warmest regards,


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