The United States under Donald Trump is destroying the community; Europe must find unity within itself, says Frankfurter Rundschau writer Gert Heidenreich.
With tears in my eyes, from both my younger and my older selves, I am reluctantly saying goodbye to the image of a country that I had once learned to love; a country that excited me, as its name represented hope. In 1949 I was 5 years old and sensed that one of the beautiful certainties of life would be to feel the protection of a kindhearted father figure, who, aside from chewing gum and corned beef, also stood for true life.
His name was America, he could not lie and embodied the good. Was there anything better than belonging to the righteous side of the world, quasi-adopted by it, related to the guarantors of progress, safety and prosperity? The atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, which I now consider mass murder, marked Washington’s global hegemony for our mothers and fathers. The occupying forces generously spread the utopia of the New World among us children, and in our awakening thinking the U.S. established itself as the country of aspiration and academic ambition.
Our parents, at the end of the war either depressed or relieved, didn’t know then that the interventionist policies of this guardian of freedom over the course of the following decades would be one continuous disaster; he himself did not know; and we children, suddenly having arrived in 1968, resented him for Vietnam, particularly for the My Lai Massacre in which 504 civilians were killed, as well as for his violent racism.
The American Mythos Is Showing Deep Cracks
Nonetheless, the American mythos got away with scratches back then, which could mainly be attributed to the music of the resistance, blasting from there straight into our hearts. Jimi Hendrix did more for our affinity toward the United States than any political decision. The oppositional energy, the lust for independence, the will to renewal: Those were signals that kept our deep-rooted puppy love for America alive, albeit successively weakened and despite all doubts and disappointments.
Since then, my former American dream has gotten cracks so deep that the erstwhile patron of the victory march of democracy has turned into a mysterious abyss. At first with disbelief, then angry and now only sad and appalled, I am witnessing how this great nation with its tragic and brave history, the paradigmatic inner conflicts about freedom and human dignity, is leaving its destiny in the hands of an obviously deeply disturbed, mentally slow egomaniac, who is taking the nation hostage to his narcissism and whose biggest delight appears to be the mobilization of the lowest instincts, in order to find associates for his own mental perversity. A president lacking political concepts, only barely tolerated by most heads of state, who is doing everything in his power to transform “America First” into America worst.
US President Trump Is Cultivating Rowdyism
“The primary driving force behind his actions was not the desire to do good, but the ambition to be admired as the promoter of popular endeavors, and to enter into posterity as a great man. The character trait pervading all his measures was a nervous haste that hurried incessantly from one task to the next, in an abrupt and often contradictory fashion, to which was added an exceedingly dangerous urge to do everything himself.”
What appears to be a portrait of Donald Trump, the historian Ludwig Quidde wrote in 1894 about imperial insanity, using the example of the evidently mentally ill Roman emperor Caligula. His “tweet” “Oderint, dum metuant” − “Let them hate, so long as they fear” − matches precisely Trump’s wreaking havoc in the White House and his over-estimation of his discretionary powers in the conflicts with Democratic governors.
What is the meaning of this ruckus caused by such a powerful, ignorant pubescent figure on the world stage? The political and economic consequences of this pugnacity are obvious. It is probably worse, though, that this primitive way of speaking and insolent self-adulation, first in the U.S. and later trans-nationally, came into circulation in the form of mental and verbal rowdyism and receives justification through the most powerful man in the world.
Populism and Pugnacity Are Being Embraced in Europe As Well
Europe was and also still is susceptible to this. Obtuse cockiness is a highly contagious virus, apparently affecting mostly men. One shouldn’t believe that globalization influences only the economy; the brute’s dictionary is an export hit as well, and the more important the exporting parties are, the more space they occupy in the media landscape, and the more sought after is their product.
The Trumps and Reycep Erdogans, Viktor Orbáns and Jair Bolsonaros, Boris Johnsons and other potentates of the world want to spread their conceited rhetoric, their xenophobia, and their contempt for democracy on a global level. Their verbal instigation is designed to create international echoes and embolden as many combatants as possible, until even the most inferior tagalong, like Alexander Gauland, begins to utter threats against democrats: “We will hunt her!”*
The United States Is No Longer a European Ally
If it were only about Trump and his patronage, Europe could wait out this plague. But brutality, stupidity, megalomania and caprice within the leadership of a hitherto well-reputed global power have a tendency to become a pandemic. Now it’s a matter of maintaining a distance. The intact European democracies should not witness how, in their own home, anti-Europeans, after spreading their populist propaganda, are also coordinating methods designed to subvert democracy.
First and foremost, it is important to let go of the mantra-like repeated claim that the United States is our most important ally. Politically it is not an ally anymore. Trump, like Vladimir Putin, is trying to weaken Europe, divide the union and corrode the idea of a jointly acting, varied, harmonious community of European nations.
Europe Stands Alone
And because China is interested in Europe only as an economic region and has positioned itself in opposition to the fundamental European human rights principles, the bitter truth is: Europe has no allies. An alliance can only be found within.
And precisely this is, or could be, a strength if we recognize the historic moment and act accordingly: It’s high time for a democratically legitimized, common foreign, economic and security policy, based on federal principles, for a stable Europe – which is what Trump, as well as Putin, are trying to prevent. A critical dialogue with the United States would then be a realistic alternative. The alliance on the other hand is – at least until a complete turnaround of U.S. politics has taken place – a lost illusion.
*Editor’s note: This statement was made by Gauland, a leader of Germany’s right-wing Alternative for Germany Party, with reference to Chancellor Angela Merkel.
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