Distressing thoughts about our nation were on my mind over the July 4th weekend. It’s not just that COVID-19 kept us from celebrating Independence Day as we Americans traditionally have done; it’s more severe than that.
What’s now apparent is that we are no longer the nation that other stable and freely elected governments admire and trust. Our president and many of his frequently changing spokespeople are viewed as undependable, mercurial and naive. We seem to be becoming a pariah state, which is defined as a nation considered to be an outcast among the international community.
America has come a long way in its 244 years. We’ve been held in high esteem and viewed as preeminent world leaders since the end of World War I. Over the years, when my husband and I traveled abroad, citizens of most other countries lavished praise on the United States, our leaders and what we had accomplished. Not anymore.
The United States is an amazing country, one I’ve been proud of and grateful to despite our flaws and prejudices, some of which need rapid remediation. Our nation has been built on the backs of people from every corner of the world, many poor and uneducated. President Trump’s current blanket rejection of most immigrants may well have long-term negative effects as our population ages and declines.
We were the country that believed in Emma Lazarus’ words engraved on the Statue of Liberty and got Germany back on its feet after World War II with the Marshall Plan. We passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and gave women the vote a century ago. We put a man on the moon. We revered science and developed vaccines for polio, measles, mumps and more. We were a country that let poor people become middle class and let middle-class workers buy homes and send their kids to college. That’s what made us great.
We’ve not always been right. Iraq was wrong and we never learned from previous invaders of Afghanistan that foreigners who try to control that country do not fare well. But we were still America, the nation that learned from mistakes and could play well with others. Our leaders did not diminish and embarrass other heads of states and countries with juvenile boasts. Except for the Great Depression, we did not have fat cats leading glitzy lives while thousands waited in line for food handouts.
President Trump’s words and behaviors have engendered disdain for America among nations considered our allies for the past half century. His response to the COVID-19 pandemic is mystifying and dangerous. America’s disease rates are so extreme that we now are unwelcome in many European countries, which through much effort and rational national leadership have controlled their own coronavirus rates.
Other nations and many Americans cannot understand our president’s embrace of Russian, Saudi Arabian, Brazilian and other dictatorial leaders or denial of climate change. America may experience more extremes in weather as the current aging leaders die off, but science and polar bears don’t lie, even though politicians do.
The United States, previously emulated and adored, is now scorned and excluded from some international decision making. The depressing question is, is the U.S. becoming a pariah state, and if so, we must stop it.