If I have ever had reason to be ashamed of calling myself an American, it was on reading the news that about 400 voters in Kennewick, a small town incidentally located in my own home state of Washington, have endorsed a man called Loren Nichols as a city council candidate. In media interviews during the run-up to the election, Nichols said he is in favor of shooting illegal immigrants on sight.
Mind you, I am not ashamed of a nut like Nichols shooting off his mouth or voicing insane notions. That is covered by our free-speech provisions that are one of the things that normally make me proud to be an American.
No, it’s the fact that 26 percent (!) of the population in a quintessentially American small town not only didn’t rise up and shout the guy down, but actually went to a polling station and cast their vote in favor of what he says. I feel personally humiliated by this, and I don’t know how I can face my European friends in future and still extol the virtues of the American System.
That this system is seriously broken has been apparent for years. The breakdown of discourse between increasingly radical Taliban-like blocks on the left and right of the spectrum, the rise of Nimbyism („Not In My Back Yard“) among the shrinking core of centrist voters, the proven incapacity of politicians to govern the country (see Ben Bernanke’s blistering rebuke of decision-makers during the late debt ceiling crises), the disintegrating infrastructure of this once-great country and its obvious inability to create opportunities for is disprivileged minorities and down-and-out middle class; all of these paint a bleak and discouraging picture of the Land of the Free, the former beacon of hope to the huddled masses yearning for their chance to partake in the American Dream.
That dream has gone sour thanks to people like Nichols, but most of all thanks to those who give them support – as opposed to the contempt and ridicule they deserve.
The reversal of America from a country that glorifies immigration as a source of constant stimulation and innovation to a land that builds fences along its borders and allows policemen to detain suspects because the „look foreign“ is the greatest humiliation American has yet inflicted upon itself – not to mention a wound that will surely fester and continue to fuel the downward spiral of this self-proclaimed „Top Nation“.
And as long as 26 percent of small-town voters keep pushing the country under with their votes, there is nothing we can do but sit in the sidelines an bemoan my – and our collective – fate.