The events that took place in America’s capital on Wednesday have shocked the world. The storming of the Capital Hill building (the seat of the US Congress) by violent terrorists could not be more despicable. These people do not represent or reflect a civilized, advanced society but are a throwback to the worst of what humanity can become due to fear, ignorance and hate. Unfortunately the outgoing president has stoked this Molotov cocktail of misogyny, racism and turmoil in order to further his own political agenda, maintain power and support among a hardcore majority of America’s political conservatives.
As former president Barak Obama has written: “For two months now, a political party and its accompanying media ecosystem has too often been unwilling to tell their followers the truth – that this was not a particularly close election and that President-Elect Biden will be inaugurated on January 20. Their fantasy narrative has spiraled further and further from reality, and it builds upon years of sown resentments. Now we’re seeing the consequences, whipped up into a violent crescendo.”
For the rest of the world, the US descent into chaos heralds the country’s long-time coming global decline. Since the end of the Cold War’s division of the world into two polarities, the United States has been the undisputed, though often much hated, single super power. That role has often fueled anti-Americanism even as US culture and commodities were increasingly consumed abroad. There are many countries that will feel satisfaction in seeing America taken down a notch.
But the thing about America that the rest of the world often fails to appreciate may also be its saving grace, at least in this instance. America is an island nation, geographically separated by two massive oceans on its east and west coasts from the rest of the world. America is also culturally and politically disconnected.
America may have close ties with the UK, though these have weakened in recent years and it has never been especially warm to either Mexico or Canada. There might be attempts at outside influence; certain Russian interference in the 2016 election cannot be wholly discounted. But for the most part, America stands and – as we are seeing now with the insurrectionists – will likely fall alone.
However this also means that America can pull itself back from the brink. Americans can see what happened Wednesday in Washington and decide collectively as a society, as a polity, as a people, that the slide into fascism is not what it wants. America can still pull itself together. To hope that all the country will come together is unrealistic. Yes its true, 81.3 million voted for Biden and that represents an incredible record-setting number of people voting for positive change and democracy.
But there are still 74 million people who voted for Trump, who admire his brand of violent, hate-mongering populism. That’s 74 million Americans who resist the idea of a multicultural, progressive America where inclusivity trumps bigotry, ignorance and fear.
So America has a long way to go, to bridging the divisions cultivated these past four years, to rebuilding democracy. But I believe it can and will achieve this. Being an island also means learning to be self-reliant, to pick yourself up whenever you fall. Wednesday, America hit the dirt. Now it is time to pick itself up and keep moving forward.