Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Shutdown is Not the Problem; World Opinion Is



The eminent shutdown of the U.S. government is solvable and will be solved. There are many partial solutions, paste-ons and gimcracks to keep America financially whole. Perhaps wounded a bit, but whole.

What is a problem, is how the world has increasingly come to see us, beginning in the days of the Clinton Impeachment. Living in Europe, as I did at the time and still do, I witnessed my European friends in the throes of disbelief that the most powerful nation in the world could actually contemplate replacing a President because of what, for them, was a minor event. A sex scandal? The President of France had a mistress and two ‘illegitimate’ children and yet retained both his power and respect.

It shook them, I’ll vouch for that and it was the opening gun for shakeups yet to come.

911 shocked everyone across the world and immediately brought a convergence of sympathy and willingness to help America that has not been seen since. Essentially we drained off and squandered that splendid opportunity by an ‘either for us or against us’ stance that forced America to pretty much go it alone and drove a wedge between us and world opinion. We lied our way into Iraq under false pretenses and morphed from victim to bully in the eye-wink of successive administrations. Then there followed (and continues today) an unprecedented spying on friends and enemies alike, tethered shamelessly to our stated sense of ‘exceptionalism’ and the Bush Doctrine of ‘preventive attack.’ 

Torture was okay for us, because we were exceptional. The same was true for our support of (but failure to join) the International Criminal Court, for fear our leaders might be brought before them. A double-standard, bred of power and crippling our ability to denounce criminality.

So the world no longer understood us and that lack of worldwide approval threatens us far more than al Qaeda, our various ‘wars’ against drugs and terrorism, or our steady retreat into partisanism. They think Washington has lost the keys to governing itself. 

Ask yourself how you would feel, if the world’s greatest military power, a power entirely outside your own nation’s ability to resist, lost its sense of reality? Worried, I suspect, would be the mildest of reactions.

So the world worries over a nation it once idolized as the world’s best hope for freedom and enlightenment. It knows, or has reason to hope, we will survive this momentary threat of shutdown. But the question persists, whether we have lost our ability to lead, even ourselves

Possibly we're too close to the flame of our own knee-jerk politics to see the light outsiders perceive. Consumed by the heat of Sunday talk-shows, distracted by finger-pointing and devoid of leadership at all levels, we struggle on with our complicated lives, sure in the faith that America has always found a way. Faith is defined as: A strong belief in a supernatural power or powers that control human destiny.

Less and less, that faith is shared outside the boundaries of America and that’s the true danger, as the clock ticks toward shutdown.