Thank god for the pandemic. Now, even we Canadians can speak truth to America’s lack of power.
Yet until now, in the way we would not discuss gun control or health care with our American friends, we would also let them get away with saying they are citizens of the greatest nation on earth. Or not saying it. But certainly acting it.
We know America isn’t great, let alone the greatest, and hasn’t been for a long time. It ranks 42nd in life expectancy; 15th in quality of life; very high in obesity, child mortality, cost of higher education. America is Number One in some things — like incarceration (well above Russia), deaths by assault, and of course income inequality.
Where America ranks low is on literacy and numeracy – and decency.
I’m not saying Americans aren’t decent. I’m saying its institutions lack the kind of empathy its people display in overwhelming numbers.
This makes telling our neighbours the truth about their country that much harder. But just as a person bedeviled by delusions can’t function, a house divided against itself cannot stand.
It’s time someone told Americans that what they see in the mirror is different from what the world sees.
This is never easy. Punching through this kind of denial makes intervening on a drug addict child’s play. But who better to do that than us, the loyal lap-dog friend next door, the buddy who’s always been there, never asking much, happy to live in the shadow of our friend’s gigantic dreams?
But now….now, we not only have an opportunity, but a duty to that friend to tell them the truth about themselves. Calling them tonight likely isn’t the best way or time to do this, right in the middle of a crisis that will by next week kill more Americans than died in the Vietnam War.
You also don’t want to do this intervention by phone or Zoom. Wait till the crisis ends and have the conversation when you meet them again, face-to-face. This will give them time to look back on the ruinous war their country fought and largely lost against the pandemic. They need to want to change.
It’s important that you don’t let them blame everything on their President. True, he makes Caligula look like Churchill. But Trump mirrors the virus itself, ruthlessly exploiting the vulnerabilities that bluster alone covered over.
I guess that’s the saddest part of America’s shocking fall.
It’s existed so long on convincing itself it was exceptional that it was able to draw the world into its own delusion. Even if we knew America wasn’t exceptional at all, and let it think it was.
So some of America’s slow sad decline is on us for not calling it out, and not just since February, but for all those years we’ve let America tell us it was the greatest nation on earth.
But given that Canada’s response to the pandemic will likely strengthen us rather than weaken us as a nation, and given that America will be brought low by all this, what better act of friendship can we perform than to help remove the mask that’s disfigured their sense of who they really are?