Rock Bottom

image: dying america

Has America (Finally) Hit Rock Bottom?
Is There Any Lower For Us to Go? Or, Are We Finally at the Beginning of the End of American Collapse?

By Umair Haque
Eudaimonia
October 24,2019

As someone who travels more than they want to, the very first thing people say to me, laughing anywhere and everywhere I go - is just one word: “Trump.” Its enough to send everyone into peals of laughter. The world is right to laugh. Who wouldn’t be amused by Americas very own home-grown aspiring Arab-style dictator? Replete with the tantrums, the scandals, the comedic pronouncements, and the outlandish ignorance of, well, everything an educated sane person should know and value? Who claims he’s getting “lynched"for basic accountability applying to him?

Now, the truth is that I don’t have a defensive reply. I can’t defend America. Who can? And what is there to defend, exactly? Can I say something like, “Hey! Americans are good people!”, when in fact the average American is too weary or numb or dumb to care much about concentration camps? There’s Hong Kong revolting against extradition laws. There’s Extinction Rebellion shutting London down. There are Americans happily trying to forget about kids in cages. What can I say? Shall I pick a fight - and prove to the world just how ugly Americans really are? How can I plead a case that doesn’t exist?

I can’t defend a country that let a guy like Trump get away with his worst, time and again - even if it pretends to be outraged. Words and actions. I have to look at it a little more coldly, like the world does. So all I can really do is shake my head, like most of us do daily. And then, after the laughter has subsided, I ask a tiny question. Maybe, just maybe: can America redeem itself from being a nation that stands humiliated and disgraced in the eyes of the world?

Let me put that question in a more pragmatic way. Has America finally hit rock bottom? I don’t ask it in a mean, ugly, spiteful way. I ask it, if anything, in an optimistic one. Let me explain.

Open corruption. Daily scandal. Whispers, to put it kindly, of betrayal. Nepotism. Malfeasance, incompetence. That’s the everyday state of this Presidency. It hovers somewhere between one of history’s great jokes and one of the world’s great embarrassments. It would be wrong of the world not to laugh at America, because nobody should get a free pass for such reckless irresponsibility - especially not the country which purports to lead the world.

And yet there are signs that Americas long, slow - and the sudden, violent decline may finally be bottoming out.
What signs are those?

Let’s begin with the obvious. First, there’s finally a movement to impeach the fascist who leads the free world. You see, what shocks people wherever I go - from Paris to Berlin to Lahore - isn’t really that a fascist now leads America. That much is predictable to the world, if not to Americans. After all wasn’t America the world’s largest apartheid state, until not so long ago, and hasn’t it long been the worlds most violent society, bombing and invading and destabilizing whomever it saw fit to? If we added up the tally of “collateral damage” in all those wars, from Iraq to Nicaragua to Chile - how high would it go? Nobody has ever counted, my friends and that is a mark of America’s profound moral irresponsibility.

So nobody, really, is shocked that a fascist leads the “free world” except Americans, who, because nobody has explained to them just how casually horrific their everyday behavior has been for the rest of that world, have had no idea just how much damage has been done. What the rest of the world is shocked by - well, perhaps shocked is the wrong word, and faintly amused is the better one is that - Americans dont care very much that they are led by a fascist.

What really surprised the world over the last few years hasn’t been that American fascists built concentration camps, put kids in cages in them, tore them away from their parents, or raided towns and cities, hunting the impure - it’s that the average American did something like this. Shouted in outrage for a day or two - and then - went back to Facebook, Netflix, and Amazon shopping.

Now, when my friends around the world point this out, and say, sometimes: “My God! Americans are terrible people, aren’t they! We had hope in them for so long, but who can respect them now?” I try to point out that they also don’t really understand the pressures Americans live under. Who has time to care about the fascists - when the capitalists have turned your life into a brutal, never-ending struggle for basic survival? When youre left weary and exhausted just trying to keep that job that gives you healthcare and a meagre income҅when the news shocks you into numbness every single daywho has the energy to fight the system? So Americans are victims, too.

And yet they are just as much predators. That is a fact I can’t dispute. Americans supported all the things that led to Trump. Maybe you didn’t - Im sure you are a saint, or at least a decent and thoughtful person - but Americans as a society did. The wars, the open corruption, the impossibly-low-taxes that denied them anything Europeans and Canadians would regard as basic human rights, like healthcare or retirement, the trade dealsӔ that made the rest of the world just labour to be exploited so that Americans got the everyday low price.

When somethings too good to be true, it usually is. So while their elites promised Americans lives of impossible ease, comfort, and prosperity җ the rest of the world, those dirty, filthy subhumans, theyll do all the work, and weҒll live in safety and peace and plenty!!  the reality was very much that the opposite started to happen. The dream began to die. Americans began to live lives of newfound poverty in a rich country.</b> Theirs was the דsafest country, so they said - why else all the wars?  but meanwhile, kids massacred each other at school<b>. Capitalism was to make the average American an owner, a master, finally - and yet instead, the average American now dies in debt, meaning they’ve never effectively owned, saved, or earned anything at all.

It was too good to be true, the American Dream. Not the humble one, I think, that I grew up with. Little houses on cul-de-sacs and kids walking to school. But the other one. A McMansion, three SUVs, a perfect body to fuck, and a million or two in every bank account. That dream, my friends, was one of subjugation, of violence, of power. And who was going to end up ruling over it - but a Trump, the most violent and shameless and indecent one of all?

So now there’s a movement rising - finally to impeach the fascist. And maybe America’s little nightmare is coming to an end. Sure, the Senate wont convict him and remove him from office - so what? It’s enough for a President to stand disgraced. For what? For a better one to come in.

Which brings me to the next reason that America might finally be at rock bottom. It’s becoming more obvious by the day that Elizabeth Warren will be Americas next President. She’s surging for a good reason. Shes the best candidate, by a very, very long way.

And yet I wonder if Americans see her like the world might. In global terms, what she is is a great democratic reformer. Latin American and Arab countries, too, have seen the like. A figure who rises to challenge the abuses of the tyrants and dictators that rule over a meek, timid populace - ironically, just like America now, only installed by America there, too - and roars to power in a tidal wave of people power.

Such figures tend to have one of two outcomes. One, they really do reform their societies for decades. Two, they are met with such extreme resistance that they fail without even really being given a chance ח and the dictators and tyrants come right back to power anyways. The first kind of such reformer is a Peron. To understand the other kind of outcome, think of a Sisi. Whether or not that makes, we dont need to dwell on it. Let me make the point sharper.

America’s decline has looked something like this. Long and slow, like an eroding shoreline. And then sudden and violent like a cliff crumbling away. Long and slow: American living standards have stalled for half a century, leading to mounting despair, collapsing trust, the loss of faith and optimism in society. Sudden and violent: all that frustration exploded into rage when the middle class finally became a minority - exactly the moment Trumpism arose.

Maybe the moment of catharsis has happened. Maybe Americans have got it out of their system. Maybe they’ve understood that voting for a violent, stupid man - just because you’re frustrated with a system - only empowers the violent and stupid. And no, I dont just mean the Trumpists - I mean even the elites, the analystsӔ and journalists and so on who pooh-poohed the idea that the Trumpists were a) actual fascists b) capable of doing terrible things c) not just misunderstood good ole boys.

Now, just because Elizabeth Warren comes to power doesn’t mean that Americas out of the woods, yet. I’m sure as I bet you are - that they’ll try to steal the election from her, or much worse, from outright intimidation to open violence. I’m sure, too, that pushing the agenda of real reform through a country as broken and divided as America will be no easy task - even for a visionary leader in power. Remember how Americans never figured out that when something is too good to be true, it usually is? How they ended up turning a blind eye to what they were doing to the world - and all those things, from fascism to tyranny to violence, now came back to haunt them?

Warren’s challenge isn’t just policies - that’s easy. It’s changing Americans. Helping them become the genuinely good people that the world is losing faith in them ever becoming. Enabling them to not live lives of desperation and poverty is one thing - but then leading people towards their better selves is bigger challenge still. Poverty and deprivation cause hate and violence and so American fascism was eminently predictable. But abundance and plenty by themselves are no guarantees of morality and virtue. Americans might well go on being the lazy and selfish and embarrassing people they’ve become anyways, even if Warrens successful just at the Ezra Klein level of ғpolicy.

America redeeming itself from being a humiliated and disgraced nation isn’t just about one mans obscenity, my friends. It is about all of us. Our negligence and willful blindness and complicity, too. A nation is never just one man.

And yet all those are good problems to have - or at least - better ones. If we have those problems tomorrow, then well know: America hit rock bottom, and from there, things began to curve gently, slowly upwards. And it was about time. We see Trumpism, too often, as a thing-in-itself. But the truth is that American decline has lasted fifty years now and counting, while American collapse has lasted just five. That’s a long time for a modern society to fall apart. Maybe, then, finally, were at the point of renewal.

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