I’ve worked in Europe since Bush II and the Iraq War. That was not a great conversation opener — USA was a thug, a child — but when Obama came along, boy, people were all jealous and I did preen. Now, it’s just pity, a roll of the eyes and a determination to vacation elsewhere.
Anyway, even in the Obama years, some people would slam the USA for being hypocritical and a meddler, but most people looked past the fallibility and responded to the dream.
What makes a country attractive to us is the same as what makes a person attractive; a country’s character is just that of a person, writ large. Popular people make the world a nicer place and shine a light, as it were, on the way forward, so that you feel silly for cowering in the dark.
Would you feel safer living next door to a gentle, upbeat person whom you can trust with your cats, or a steroid-crazed bodybuilder who shouts insults at any stranger passing by, secure in his heavily alarmed house? But what about you? Does his personal strength, that can reach no further than the electric fence ringing his property, protect you? Are you safer now that he has populated your neighbourhood with angry and hurt people?
Electric fences do not last forever. Someday there will be an outage. And, as your strongman throws out those insults and threats from behind his curtain, you can bet those angry and hurt people are watching and waiting.
And when that chance arises and they storm into his property and set it alight, will his strength prevent your house from catching fire?
Me, I’d rather live next door to a quiet, community do-gooder. Secure in the knowledge that when the chance arises, strangers will reach out and ask, how can we help.