By Ben Tanosborn
After a two-month hiatus – a self-imposed exile in an exclusive political exchange with some of my closest transoceanic peers – I feel invigorated to resume the quest which I had taken up in 2003 with my Behind the Mirror columns: a then rebuke to a reckless, and brainless, foreign policy adopted by George W. Bush under Cheney’s tutelage.
My period of introspection, or political soul-searching, was triggered by an email I received on November 9, the day after the 2016 presidential election, from a journalist peer in India prophesizing America’s influential demise in the world which he underlined with the phrase, “Americans finally received their just deserts in their election of Donald Trump.” A strong pronouncement, whether taken as a curse, an imposed penance, or just a predictive statement with or without bases in fact.
Eight months later, such statement, known to have been made without malice by a friend, is beginning to resonate in a way that takes me back in time two generations. As if that ugly American of the 60’s and 70’s that circumnavigated the globe, leaving the inevitable dung behind, has apparently been resuscitated in the form of America’s newly elected president, and unquestionable leader of the freak world, Donald J. Trump.
William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick’s political novel, The Ugly American [made into a movie in 1963] might have had a misunderstood title a few decades ago… and many of us can attest to that having lived firsthand experiences dealing with a novice American imperial reach… and the mismanagement of well-intended programs and agencies – such as the Alliance for Progress, the Peace Corps, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) et al – that yielded limited to poor results due almost entirely to a series of tragic American blunders abroad.
Yet, the word ugly could have been replaced quite often with ignorant or idiotic, given the Keystone Kops atmosphere in US’ overseas reach… but, instead, the “ugly American” appellative took hold and stuck to most Americans who lived or travelled overseas, whether working for the US government, tourists or simply on their own. The epithet was indistinctly used to refer to most Americans… well, except for the few culture-aware or those who took refuge by posing as, or misleading to be, Canadians.
So much for the “ugly American” of old and on with the new… an “ugly American” this time around that is not generically-given to represent all of us as a group, not even a subgroup, but one specifically-assigned to an individual with an interminable list of earned negative adjectives at their “superlative” or worst [sublative] form.
America’s ill-celebrated president has been recipient, both domestically and worldwide, of some of the crudest insults demeaning his intellect, his knowledge and, perhaps most important of all, his character… or total lack of it in this case. Perceptions that populist Trump may find personal or political kinship with nations/peoples tackling economic or social/migratory problems similar to those in the US are, according to my overseas learned friends, totally wrong; followers of Marine Le Pen (France) or Viktor Orbán (Hungary) vocally describing Donald Trump not as an American populist leader but as a buffoonish ass. However, such irreverent behavior in either word or deed has been held back with diplomatic aplomb by the G-20 mandataries and other heads of state… even after receiving baiting comments from the American president.
Given all the embarrassing and discordant decisions in Trump’s maverick positioning of the US internationally, starring with the nation’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, it befuddles many of us to see his immutable persistence to the possibility of better relations with Vladimir Putin and the Russian Federation. A gargantuan if not impossible task given the bipartite adversarial position this nation has maintained for over two decades, with the mainstream media serving as propagandists, not informants on all things Putin-Russia. Trump, not a champion of noble or peaceful causes makes us think that the collusion issue in Muller’s investigation will not materialize; however, significant money laundering of Russian funds through the Trump organization might have the same results, forcing Trump to resign; potential president-to-be, Mike Pence, waiting in the Oval Office with a presidential pardon… and a sure-to-be short term presidency, just like Gerald Ford’s.
Perhaps Putin may find more palatable to dispense with Donald Trump’s admiration and wait for a future opportunity to mend fences and collaborate with the United States in the promotion of global peace. Pursuing that chance now with a soon-to-exit Trump will prove to be nothing but a mirage.
This new and improved “ugly American” with an all-consuming histrionic personality disorder still commands approval poll percentages in the 35 to 40 range; however, as much as a quarter of what is assumed to be Trump’s firm base is made up of rank-and-file, non-bigoted Democrats who are soon to find that promises made by this superlative charlatan were just as fraudulent as those made by his staff at Trump University.