By Dr David Laing Dawson
There are many Americas, some of them just ideas, dreams, impressions, some of them real people living in a country bounded by Canada, Mexico and two oceans.
We were in Chantilly just north of Paris when the Twin Towers came down. We actually did witness a couple of mid eastern males celebrating as they exited a bar that night. In the morning as we put suitcases back in our rental car our innkeeper offered his sympathies. They are ‘Veeruses’ he said, referring to Islamists. ‘Veeeruses’.
Over the next few days I found myself developing a warm place in my heart for America, the idea of America, and New York, that greatest of cities. As a Canadian I had always felt the usual Canadian ambivalence toward the U S of A, one part envy, one part disdain. But now I was suddenly American, a citizen of the new world, the place where we humans tried once again to create a vibrant, democratic, just society, a place where everybody could have a decent life, and most importantly, a place where tyrants, demigods and would be dictators could never find purchase. How dare these 13th century primitives attack my America?
Of course George Bush then invaded Iraq and I reverted to being Canadian, with less envy now, and more disdain and discouragement.
Twelve years later our news channels, talk shows, social media, magazines, and newspapers are full of Donald Trump, mass killings, the shattered politics of the USA. We see the unrest in American cities after yet another white cop shoots a black kid. We hear unfathomable, stupid opinions about gun ownership, massive armies at the ready, air power, drones, Jesus, angels, illegal immigrants and Muslims. Enormous prisons. The Failure of the mental illness treatment system. Executions. Walls being built. Trillions of debt at all levels of government. Open carry and concealed carry.
From north of the border it seems as if the U S of A has become a throbbing mass of uneducated discontent teetering dangerously close to self destruction.
Yet once again we are traveling in the USA, right at this moment on I 95, moving quickly toward Sebastian Inlet State Park, and once again we have seen this country as vast and rich and busy, organized for efficiency and pleasure. As I leave the gas station store a man enters. He says, “Howya doin’, Buddy?”. The older black man with a worn air force baseball cap and a well groomed white poodle in the parking lot of the highway motel tells me she’s a service dog. “I have PTSD”, he says, “From the Viet Nam war.” His candor is almost too much for my Canadian ears.
The gardens are splendid, the houses grand, and those houses that are not grand are clearly serviced and livable, the stop lights work, there is electricity available all day, drinkable water, abundant food, friendly, helpful people, black and white, selling, buying, playing with their toys, speaking their minds, driving their vehicles on well marked roads to shopping plazas to buy a vast number of products, gadgets, appliances, conveniences often invented by Americans.
Now it is true we drove past a sign on the highway stating that Georgia, to date, had 1331 traffic fatalities this year, and over 30,000 Americans kill themselves or another American with guns each year, and we are not visiting inner city Detroit.
But my point is that this vast, rich, democratic republic deserves better than Donald Trump and the rest of those republican candidates speaking in inferential half sentences and making school boy faces at one another while stoking fears of an imaginary invasion. In psychiatry this is called displacement.
Where are the Eisenhowers and Kennedys?
The world needs a just, stable, sane, thoughtful America. An inclusive America. An America that lives up to its ideals and its people. An America that can lead the world by example, not by threat.
And it needs leaders who are courageous enough to address the real needs and threats and not pander to our primitive instincts. Such real needs and threats as education, health care, income inequality, gun violence, mental illness treatment, CO2 emissions, racial and gender equality – and not some mostly imaginary invasion of illegals and Islamists.