In an op-ed for The New York Times, Australian doctor Lisa Pryordec asks America: “Why did you let us down?”
So what’s this? Is Pryordec upset that the Washington Zoo didn’t make room for a couple of rare wallabies? Is she angry because Obama isn’t taking enough of Australia’s Muslim refugees off their hands? No, no, of course not. This is The New York Times, after all. If a foreigner is criticizing America in the hallowed pages of the Grey Lady, they are almost certainly bashing Republicans. More specifically, Donald J. Trump.
Since the election I have cried many times, in the shower, in the car, as the conventions that define liberal Western democracy are stripped away by Donald J. Trump, with every distressful appointment, each impulsive outburst. I have embarrassment of grief for a government that is not mine and for a country that does not belong to me. It feels as if we’re mourning the death of an idea called America.
Pryordec soon reveals, however, that her opinion of the United States has been deteriorating for some time.
“Things were changing long before this election,” she writes. “For all the intractable problems in our region, there is a sense of forward movement. When we visit America now, it feels like the opposite, like decay. Roads, airports, an economy, perhaps even a society, falling to pieces. We are left in awe by the extreme poverty as well as the extreme wealth.”
But even though Pryordec appears to believe that the America of 2016 is a long way from the America of 1996, she doesn’t seem to connect that feeling with Trump’s election. She admits that it might have played a part, but she doesn’t see how this could be the turning point away from the destructive forces that left the U.S. a shell of its former self. She instead believes we’re watching the end of the Republic.
“The election of Mr. Trump feels like a sudden plunge after a gradual decline,” she writes. “Already he is goading China, befriending President Vladimir V. Putin, disregarding climate change and refusing daily intelligence briefings because he’s ‘a smart person.’ None of this, we fear, will end well for any of us.”
If by “us,” Pryordec means liberals all over the Western world, she is right to feel that fear. If she means, however, the Western world as a whole and the United States specifically, she should clear her head and wake up. She’s absolutely right: America hasn’t looked like AMERICA in some time. That’s what Trump means when he says it’s time to make the country great again. Can he? Will he? That remains to be seen.
But to fear trying? That’s cowardice, plain and simple. And if we succumb to cowardice, then we truly have lost the America that we once loved.