Warning: Another blog post that is not about travel, but unashamedly about American politics (kind of).
An exceedingly funny friend of mine from high-school days in Australia, who now lives near New York, recently posted this on his Facebook:
“America, you might call it an election but the rest of the world is viewing this as an IQ test, and it’s not looking very good.”
Which, despite all the millions of words of commentary so far, best sums up for me what I think everyone outside of America is really thinking. Because like so many people around the world I wake up morning after morning these days, see yet another article that mentions the words “Donald Trump” and “President of the United States of America” in the same sentence, and can’t help but think to myself: “Seriously, is this some kind of warped and twisted joke?”
Or, when I am feeling a bit grumpier than normal, my thoughts quickly become much more brutal. As in, “What the fuck is wrong with these Americans?”
So let me explain how I see it in a way that is, hopefully, easy to understand.
My mother was recently unwell – she had leukemia. She was hospitalized in Israel, where she lives. She received treatment and is now, thank God, on the mend. I spent ten days in the hospital with my Dad and my youngest brother, as she underwent chemotherapy.
On the first day there, the lead oncologist came to see us. He introduced himself and explained that he had two degrees in medicine, has done extensive training in three countries, and had practiced in his field as a doctor and specialist oncologist for about thirty years. In the course of which career he had seen thousands of patients, and successfully treated most of them. Although by his own admission, he’s also had a fair few failures along the way.
The doctor clearly knew his way around the Israeli hospital system, the hospital itself, and was up-to-date with the cutting edge of treatment protocols. He sat with us for some time chatting and explaining what he proposed to do. A lot of what he told us was pretty technical medical stuff, and I found it hard to understand the intricacies of everything he said.
Still, when he left us we all felt incredibly happy to have him on our team, leading the way. We knew full well that there was going to be a long road ahead for my mum, and that success wasn’t assured. We knew there were big risks. But at least we knew that the person in charge had done it before, had a good idea of what was up, and had a clear understanding of what was needed based on his own experience, his knowledge and his first-hand experiences of what is possible within the bounds of medically sound practice.
Later that day I went to get a cappuccino at a coffee shop near the hospital. I got chatting to a guy sitting at the next table who, as it turned out, was the owner of the coffee shop. He was, in fact, the owner of a whole chain of coffee shops and a few restaurants, and he also told me he had considerable investments in stocks, bonds, and real estate. As we spoke he casually mentioned his big house and a few high profile names he claimed as friends, and he told me about his collection of expensive watches and his upcoming vacation to Europe.
This fellow left me with the clear impression that he was a successful and well-off businessman, although I am always a bit suspect when people feel the need to name-drop, or to tell you exactly how rich and successful they are. He was also quite a colorful and slightly brash individual, and made a fair few off-color jokes, and a good number of inappropriate comments about Israeli women and the size of their physical assets. But, if I have to be perfectly honest, I found him to be quite charming, offensive jokes and all.
In the course of talking to him I mentioned that my mum was in the nearby hospital. The guy proceeded to tell me that he’d had the same disease a few years before, which he had beaten. He seemed to know all about my mum’s treatment and what ailed her, and told me how he had read every scrap of information he could find on the internet about leukemia, and how to deal with it. So he felt pretty free to tell me exactly what my mum should be doing to get well, how we should be arranging our schedule as a family, and, in a uniquely Israeli way, he seemed to have an opinion on everything: from the hospital my mum was in (“awful”), to the oncologist we were using (“terrible”), to the Israeli healthcare system (“the worst”) and his radical ideas of how to fix it (“trust me, if I was in charge it’d be the best healthcare system in the world”).
All in all it was an entertaining diversion from being in a hospital ward. Although after about fifteen minutes I’d had more than enough, so said goodbye and headed back to be with my family.
And that is the end of that story.
Although it occurred to me watching the news later that night how my day could have gone another way entirely. Imagine if on my return to my mum’s bedside that afternoon I had told her this:
“Mum, I just met this guy who owns the coffee shop downstairs. He owns a bunch of other cafes too, and knows a lot of famous people, and is rich. And he also sounds like he knows a lot about leukemia; he even had it himself. He thinks this hospital is pretty crap, and that your oncologist is pretty crap, and I believe him because he speaks straight and everything he said sounded simple and easy to understand. He doesn’t work in a hospital – he never has – so he has no vested interests. And because he has never worked in a hospital he has never had a patient under his care die, whereas under your oncologist’s watch a lot of patients have. So here’s my brilliant idea mum: let’s ditch the doctor who came to see you this morning, and instead let’s ask the coffee shop owner to take over, and to lead the rest of your chemotherapy treatment. I am sure he will know better how to make you well again.”
I suspect had I said this to my mum she would have been perfectly entitled to tell me I had lost my mind. And had I actually persuaded her to follow my plan, I would hope that my father, brothers, and everyone else would have had enough sense to tell me I was fucking crazy. Then throw me out of the room before words turned into actions that might do some real harm.
Hopefully, you can see my not-too-thinly veiled point here.
It would seem to me that the choice for the American people in November has become pretty simple. In the one corner you have someone who, whatever else may be said about him, is at best a novice, and at worst horribly out of his depths, when it comes to the subject of government. He might be great at business, and even greater on TV, but the indisputable fact is that this guy knows bugger-all about what is required when it comes to the act of governing, and at every opportunity seems intent on reinforcing that view.
And in the other corner you have a proven veteran, who knows the ropes. In her time she has undoubtedly had her share of failings and fuck-ups, and garnered many admirers and quite a few haters. But whatever else may be said about her, she at least knows what the fairly demanding task of running a (very large and globally important) country involves.
So seriously, I don’t get why this is even a discussion anymore. Why on earth would any person put their trust in the former over the latter?
Of course folks on the Republican side will say you should do this for a number of reasons, including that the latter’s husband got a blowjob in the White House once upon a time and she didn’t immediately burn him at the stake, meaning she is now a “rape enabler”; and that the latter used her personal email account for work purposes and didn’t fess up to it straight away, meaning she is a “felon” (albeit one never convicted anywhere other than in the Kangaroo Court of Republican wishful opinion). And in which case I suspect a good number of us should be fired from our relationships and workplaces, too.
Some will also say that the latter has made some pretty big stuff-ups in the past, and there have been some pretty questionable calls on her part. I guess so, but honestly, if someone has spent thirty years in the harsh scrutiny of the public eye and hasn’t been found out at least a few times, I wouldn’t want them to be my President. Someone that perfect wouldn’t be human, but more like an alien lizard in a person’s body (which, coincidentally, is what some of the more conspiracy-minded already believe of Hillary).
Apologists on the Republican side also like to point out that their candidate’s straight-shooting ways and self-proclaimed lack of political experience is a virtue. He tells it like it is, never mind if occasionally he veers into racism, sexism or worse. And his lack of prior experience means he won’t get bogged down in Washington politics. They also like to make great store of the fact that their guy has run a myriad of successful businesses, in the process becoming rich, as if this alone is qualification for becoming President.
All of which is kind of like saying that just because she sings well and has become wealthy from doing so, we should now ask Beyoncé to run the United Nations. I know a good number of single ladies who would certainly jump on that bandwagon, but it doesn’t make it right.
That said, the urgers on the Democrat side commit a few pretty major faux pas of their own, especially when they keep banging on about the fact that Hillary is a woman, as if this alone this should qualify her for your vote. It doesn’t.
To any rational person who treats democracy seriously, Hillary’s email account, her gender, her husband’s former sex life, and Donald Trump’s bombastic personal style – even if offensive to most – should all be equally irrelevant considerations. These things should have absolutely nothing to do with how votes get cast in November, even though I suspect for most people they will.
And whilst normally what should matter most are the candidate’s positions on important national issues – like the economy, foreign policy, social welfare, taxes, and so on – the Republicans may have shot themselves in the foot on this one.
You see, had they chosen a candidate with some relevant credentials for the job of POTUS – Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, even, God-help me for saying this, Ted Cruz – at least policy could be the primary basis on which people would be making their choice. But in selecting Donald Trump as their man, what the Republicans have done is reduced the whole 2016 US Presidential election to a choice about something else entirely: experience and basic competency.
So like I said at the start, to me it’s not hard. If you’re the kind of person who would choose the rich and colorful coffee shop owner to manage your mother’s chemotherapy program, by all means vote for Donald Trump. I, on the other hand, would be much more comfortable with a qualified oncologist running the show, warts and all.
My hope is that when it comes time to vote in November’s election the majority of Americans will ultimately feel the same way, too.
NOTE 1: Thank you to my mother who pre-read this post and gave me her permission for me to write about her recent illness in this way. We all love you, and hope and pray your recovery continues.
NOTE 2: I am well aware that some of my readers have differing opinions to mine, and some people are very passionate about this subject. I have said what I wanted to say, and if anyone feels that strongly about the subject they are equally able to put their opinion out there on their own blog, Facebook, or whatever. So if you want to reply to this piece feel free to post a short, polite comment with a link to whatever blog or website you think best summarizes your view, and I encourage all my readers to follow those links and read up on all perspectives. Anything else will be deleted though: I am not interested in my blog and Facebook becoming a forum for lengthy responses and “debate by comment”. It’s my blog, so I get to make the rules!