All eyes are upon you, America, but your city has lost its shine

Ideas

All eyes are upon you, America, but your city has lost its shine

Justice Malala, who is based in Los Angeles, shares his experience of the presidential elections

Columnist

Academics have a nifty name for that “thing”, that je ne sais quoi, that American politicians display when they travel the world. They call it “American exceptionalism” — the idea that the US is a special nation, born of revolution and steeped in liberty and equality, and anointed to lead and bend the world to its vision.

To articulate the roots of this exceptionalism, modern American presidents from John F Kennedy to Barack Obama have found themselves quoting John Winthrop, who said in March 1630 to his countrymen: “For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people upon us.”

With Donald Trump in charge, the US has struggled to fulfil this idea of a shining, exemplary city on a hill. For four years the eyes of the world have been upon the US as Trump insulted his own people and foreign nations, broke international accords, jailed children, was exposed as a tax-dodger and a fraud, was accused of rape a number of times, employed his family, fired his entire cabinet, coddled white supremacists and torched the rule book on how a president of the US behaves. Where he was expected to unite, as during the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests, he divided. Where he was supposed to heal, as when thousands of migrant children were separated from their refugee-seeking parents, he doubled down on the insults. Even today he manages to lie several times every day...

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