They say that the legendary Henry Ford told one of his colleagues in 1909 that he would continue making only one car model, and that customers could choose any color they like — so long as they chose black.
Others might say that the current U.S. presidential race doesn’t offer its citizens any more choice than Henry Ford did with the famous “Model T.”
The American model rarely picks someone like Donald Trump. There are men like him in every bar in America: calling Obama the worst president in history, saying Mexicans are taking advantage of U.S. leadership by “shipping over” their poor, calling their wives “fat pigs,” and saying we should go to war against Iran rather than negotiate. But these aren’t just the immature ramblings of a lovable eccentric. Trump made these statements to the electorate on CNN after a televised debate in Cleveland.
It’s no wonder that people are impressed by the wit and charm of a billionaire. But how can it be that this vulgar and sexist boor gets applauded on the open stage? What has happened to America? The United States was the moral victor of the Cold War when it actively interfered in our affairs for more than two decades. America claimed it would be an honest broker in a regional conflict that threatened world peace. Back then, America preached tolerance, multiculturalism and empathy to us. War criminals must stand trial, the Geneva Conventions don’t allow excessive force, and civilians aren’t legitimate military targets. The U.S. taught our future leaders to beware of overblown rhetoric, hate speech and violent metaphors.
What has happened to America? Today it looks less like its former self and more like us when we were the international black sheep. I know there is a crisis, growing unemployment, a falling dollar, terrorism, wars, refugees, insecurity and instability, growing income inequality … But didn’t we have all the same problems when they called us a global pariah?
Small countries are extremely limited when it comes to influencing the rules governing the world. We paid for that lesson in blood, and now it’s our turn to watch and learn from the Greeks. However, big countries like America can easily avoid confronting their mistakes. The consequences of their delusion are easily passed on to others. Still, how has a people with freedom of speech and thought become such easy prey for a demagogue?
Of course, Donald Trump will never be president. Nevertheless, the fact that he’s gotten this far makes one wonder: What has happened to America?