For months, close friends and satellites of the American military-commercial colossus have been writing and ringing their hands purple over the possibility that an insincere, reckless businessman who’s had everything he wanted since his first adult dreams might win the presidency of the United States on behalf of a crazy idea: that the US can be truly independent again. Meanwhile, this week, the former center of the so-called Anglo-sphere will vote calmly on whether to go back to those glorious days when the English Channel was wide enough to keep Europe’s disorderly games at a safe distance.
It’s amazing how our own affairs keep sneaking up on us while watching America burn.
Sovereignty proponents in Quebec, Scotland, and now in England are treated calmly as normal people promoting a disruptive idea. They put their case to the people in state-organized referenda and, eventually, everyone weighs in. It’s a stimulating exercise; it tests ideas and aspiring and incumbent politicians. So far, the status quo prevails with arguments about incremental economic costs and, oh yes, last-minute threats about social benefits and pensions.
Why is nationalism—that desire to not be bound collectively to other collectives less competent or less trustworthy or less civilized than us—a tolerable sentiment in relatively small places and for places that practiced it so disastrously barely a century ago, but absolutely not in the USA?
My hypothesis can’t be verified because no one can admit to it. Still, here goes: European and Canadian politicians and opinion-makers think they can be idealistic and emotional, and can imagine surviving safely outside the status quo, because the US-of-A will always be there to give them security from other powers and from each other, and will keep generating enough economic growth to keep their economies recognizably afloat.
The longer the US is on the scene as their steady, rather philistine, superpower, the longer the rest of us can argue about how to make history again.
Of course, America’s friends can’t keep talking about transformative, existential changes for themselves without having another patient, team-spirited, mainstream President in the White House.