DENNIS RICHARDS. Trumpism redefines American exceptionalism

Americans shamelessly believe that their nation and their culture are superior and exceptional. Under Trump America’s reputation around the world is depleted. There is a real danger that his may become permanent should Trump be re-elected in November 2020.

The people of the United States of America believe that they and their nation are different from the rest of humanity; they are special. They accept as true that America is morally superior, God-fearing, mighty, righteous, economically-sound and free. This is “American exceptionalism”.

Americans are not taught this so much as fed this as a way of life. Any foreign visitor (aka “alien”) will tell you that, in the main, Americans can be very sensitive to those who appear to question this or put an alternative view or who are differently aligned. In addition, Americans may know little about, or be disinterested in, where you come from. Generally, they cannot readily accept criticism and fail to understand irony or self-deprecation.

Against this ingrained culture we now have President Donald Trump with his catch cries “Make America Great Again” and “America First”. Irony right there; but of course Americans cannot appreciate that. In Trump’s view “greatness” involves inward-looking policies, withdrawal from global organisations and agreements, dismemberment of expert institutions, rejection of independent advice and fickle regard to international alignments. His modus operandi, in no particular order, involves lying, repetition, impulsiveness, bullying, disrespect, selfishness and unpredictability.

All of Trump’s style and tactics play out as one in his mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic. The American people, along with the rest of the world, watch in horror as the terrible statistics and impact of the infection unfold. The epitome of Trump’s leadership is captured in his statement on the level of coronavirus testing “No. I don’t take responsibility at all”, his provocative “LIBERATE…..” tweets encouraging abandonment of State’s lockdowns and his gratuitous advice to consider untested drugs, bright light and ingestion of bleach as worthy remedies for infection.

The rest of the world has had to accept that American greatness has wilted and America is no longer a role model. The American people will soon have to make a most important judgement. Will they accept “Trumpism” as the ongoing embodiment of “American exceptionalism”?

Dennis Richards is retired. He served in the Victorian Public Service for 35 years.

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