Moral Outrage
Whew! God help us!

The election has made the US more foreign

Twenty-five years ago this month I left New York for London. For me, years as a foreign correspondent have made America a foreign country to me.

In Britain, even the conservative press has found the Tea Party and Republican Party difficult to understand. They happily bash President Barack Obama on their opinion pages while trying to understand how the political discourse in this time of crisis could be so puerile.

I was in the Bay Area last week. I had just come from lunch at Google HQ and assumed I was in the heart of America’s economic engine.A survey had just been published on unemployment in Silicon Valley. Since the recession began three years ago, 40 percent of households had experienced a job loss—54 percent of those who lost jobs were still unemployed.

At a party in Richmond, Va. last weekend the story among the upper-middle class folk attending was of children who have masters degrees from good universities squirreled away in low-level government jobs, far removed from their initial career plans, and of people in their 50s who are having to start over again after their 20-year careers in banking or real estate were blown away by the crash in property values.

Property and new technology have been the twin engines of American growth in the last two decades. They are finished for the foreseeable future.

The foreignness of America to me is that in a time of genuine economic crisis the issues were not discussed with any seriousness at all—most especially not in the $2 billion worth of advertising that flashed across the nation’s television screens.

How can a serious country hold an election for its legislature and not discuss in detail where new jobs will come from? Somewhere even as we speak someone is doing a statistical reduction on which political stories dominated the news cycle in these last months. Trust me, Christine O’Donnell will be close to the top; two out of five workers in Silicon Valley losing their jobs and what that means for the larger economy will not.

Until the American electorate grows up and acts like the mature society it used to be—accepting that governing happens in real time and no one can undo the current mess in a year or two—this will be a foreign country to those of us who have lived away a long time. More dangerously, it will be foreign in the sense of unknown to the rest of the planet who watch the United States aghast at how the former leader of the world has been transformed into a squabbling, dissension wracked polity, unconfident and fearful and unable to find its way out of the dark.

[Excerpt of an article by Michael Goldfarb, GlobalPost]


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