2017

I am a citizen of two countries, the UK and the US. Last year, in 2016, both acted in lock step, as they have so often done before: first they got angry, then they pulled out the shotgun, then they blew off their own feet.

In 2017, the bleeding continued to get worse. One wonders when an honest, competent surgeon will show up and sew up the stumps.

But as in the metaphor, so in reality: mere “diminished stature” is the wrong thing to worry about. Britain, bereft of Europe, continues its 70-year obsession with its “role” and “relevance”; meanwhile Americans obsess about the loss to the world, under the Cheesepuff-in-Chief, of supposedly vital  American “leadership.”

(In my view, that leadership was decisively lost way back in the Shrub Administration. That’s when we were let in on the secret that the United States had become a classic Banana Republic – cruel and fearful and inept – defending itself not with honor but with rendition, torture, and indefinite detention without trial.)

Both countries should worry less about how large they loom. Both countries should worry more about what kind of example they might one day hope to be.

World’s highest incarceration rate? Worst place in the developed world to be a child? Out of control “security” apparatus, with more “security” cameras than anywhere else on the planet? Autocratic leadership under fading democratic control? Unfriendly to refugees? A smug myth about social mobility hiding a reality of increasingly rigid trans-generational class distinction? Out of control military spending? Massive arms sales to torture-happy thugs? Reckless nuclear proliferation, in a classic case of Big-Car-Small-Dick syndrome? Vastly inferior schooling, and healthcare, and everything else, for the children of the poor? Journalists fleeing to Germany, oh irony of ironies, because Germany actually cares, instead of just pretending to care, about civil liberties?

Before either country can aspire to become as significant to the world as Norway, say, or Canada or New Zealand, there’s work to be done. Unfortunately, busily, all the wrong work is being done.