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  • Lawrence Bailey

A disunited and dangerous place

I’ve tried my best to abjure American politics in recent times. My rationale is that there’s precious little to learn from the bi-partisan spats that pass for debate across the pond.

I tell myself that if I want to hear outlandish statements that don’t even begin to register on the truth scale, and which are solely designed to invoke racial hatred along with community unrest then I’ve plenty of scope over here.

It used to be said that the US and UK are two peoples divided by a common tongue. Sadly, social media now shares the same unattractive messages of intolerance from the far-right.

Historically, America is a nation established on the enactment of important statements of principle. It begins with a document that describes “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” as “unalienable rights”

The founding fathers also utilised the Latin phrase "e pluribus unum" meaning "one from many" as the motto for the first Great Seal of the United States.

As nationhood progressed, so did declarations of belonging. Today, most every school day begins with: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”.

First written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister and Christian socialist, the original version actually made no mention of the United States, America or even God.

In fact, the “under God” phrasing wasn’t added until 1954. Even then, it was inserted by way of an anti-Communist sentiment. I’m guessing that the Almighty wasn’t unduly bothered though.

Yet it’s hard to recognise the same noble constitutional aspirations within a US administration run by a guy who has never declared his tax details and who seems content to castigate foreign dictators for rigging elections while taking thousands of mail boxes out of commission at a time when record levels of postal voting are anticipated.

Violence and dissent on the streets across the continent signifies to us as overseas observers that the America has seldom been less stable. It feels a disunited and dangerous place.

If you watched the recent Republican convention that confirmed the controversial incumbent as candidate, you’d probably have been struck by the kind of alternative reality that pervades the party.

The big idea seemed to be to keep referring the coronavirus in the past tense. This is despite what many regard as an incoherent government response resulting in US per capita death and infection rates that are among the world’s highest and where fatalities have passed the 180,000 mark.

Despite this, the margin between Trump and his Democratic contender remains in single figures and the vagaries of the electoral college system could still prevail in the President’s favour.

It’s actually being suggested that it may take more than a narrow victory to loosen his grip on power and a disputed result with allegations of postal-vote fraud will end up in the Supreme Court.

Either way, someone who won’t have a postal vote in November is Boris Johnson.

He renounced his US citizenship in 2016, ending years of confusing loyalties. Of course, this was less to do with patriotic fervour as avoiding a hefty tax bill from America’s Internal Revenue Service (IRS) following the sale of his home in Islington.

Perhaps personal priorities aren’t that different for leaders, whichever side of the Atlantic they are.



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