America the beautiful scoundrel

In the dog days of summer and with so many Canadians weary of talking/thinking about COVID-19 and the WE charity scandal, our nation turns its lonely eyes to you, America, and you never fail to captivate and horrify us simultaneously.

It’s a presidential election year and the two main candidates – Sleepy Joe Biden and the incumbent short-fingered vulgarian Donald Trump – are saying it’s the most important vote in American history, like virtually all of the men and one woman vying for the job did before them.

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Election years in America often lead to state of the union analyses. Enter Wade Davis, the former Yale professor who has returned to his native B.C. to teach at UBC. You may remember Davis was the guest speaker at a Bob Ewert fundraising dinner for the Northern Medical Program Trust here in Prince George back in 2013. Rolling Stone magazine recently published a lengthy essay by Davis called The Unraveling of America.

In it, Davis lays out a hot buffet of reheated reasons how and why America is falling apart. He lines up all of the usual suspects – racism, religion, urban/rural divide, wage disparity, addictions, homelessness, public health, guns, war, consumerism, exceptionalism, dwindling faith in expertise and institutions, sectarian political strife and on and on. In the end, his essay is really just a greatest hits package of putdowns all American academics and most Canadian citizens have been saying for decades, like the latest one – what borders on stupidity? Mexico and Canada.

Harharhar.

Davis was quickly met with a blistering online response, most notably from Deanna Kreisel, an American professor who taught at UBC in Vancouver from 2006 to 2019 before recently taking a position at the University of Mississippi.

In The Unraveling of the Unraveling of America, she shreds Davis and his opinions with arguments that plenty of Canadians, especially those living outside Vancouver and Toronto, would also agree with. Canada has far more in common with the United States than differences.

Except for guns and rabid militarization, Davis’s list of America’s faults is the same as Canada’s but she does more than say “oh, yeah, well, look at all the ways Canada sucks.” Her core arguments are that Canada and the rest of the world’s democracies struggle with the same issues America does to varying degrees, that the United States has always been more than just its numerous shortcomings and that the country’s many positives have attracted people from around the world to its shores for nearly 250 years.

Anyone cheering for America’s demise and a long overdue comeuppance for its ignorant citizens ignores some harsh realities.

If the United States were to truly unravel, there would be little to oppose the anti-democratic, secret police forces of China and Russia from running amok across the globe. The only reason China hasn’t politically and economically throttled Canada into submission over the arrest of Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou, fully brought Hong Kong to heel and invaded Taiwan is solely because of the United States.

America’s Jekyll and Hyde nature has been front and centre from its very inception, when a group of wealthy white men, many of them slave owners, came together to write a revolutionary document that inspired democratic movements around the world.

Humanity has enjoyed an unprecedented level of peace and prosperity in the last 75 years, largely thanks to the same country that opened the era by using atomic weapons to commit mass murder against defenseless civilians. Twice.

The United States has led the world in environmental devastation yet was the birthplace of the environmental movement.

The same country that makes people pay for health care, lets anyone who wants to carry around a gun and gives free rein to hate speech and dangerous conspiracy theories also boasts the best universities, the finest research facilities, the most innovative companies and an incredibly diverse array of radical artists, writers and thinkers.   

Put simply, the U.S. is the worst country in the world… except for all the others.

It is a land of contradictions, depraved and divine, united by its many divisions.

Only in America could voters follow up Barack Obama with President Cheeto Christ Stupid Czar.

Hopefully Davis is wrong about America’s unraveling because the United States remains the best worst option we have, regardless of what voters decide on Nov. 3.

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