Culture and the American election

I’ve been a little quiet lately. The results of the American election have been shocking and sad. I’ve been processing this as have many of you. For me it is not a left vs. right thing. It’s a madness vs. sanity, compromise vs. self-destruct and general that man is the most despicable thing possible how could even the biggest anarchist vote for him.

I get why some people voted for Brexit. I get that life has been hard and people felt ignored. This is a post-truth world. But geez. Seriously.

Anyways, I have been thinking about culture and America. As a Canadian I have a unique vantage point to view Americans from. I’ve also lived in a couple of social democracies so I get what those cultures are like.

From the beginning Americans disliked government. That is one of the defining differences from Canadians. They hated the British. We were either fine with them or weren’t fussed. We quietly waited for independence to be given. They took it by force and ranted about taxation.

The other factor is slavery. One of my flatmates in Edinburgh was from one of the Carolinas (I can’t remember which so I’m going with the safe option). One time he mentioned the difference between the North and Canada, and the South: slavery. It was settled as an industry rather than a place to be inhabited. There is an enormous legacy there that has never been dealt with or recovered from.

Lately people have been saying that Bernie would’ve won but I have serious doubts. I never thought he would win. He’s a socialist in a country where liberal is a mean insult. I can not imagine Congress nicely letting him pass legislation. People are trying to kill medicare, destroy the national parks and the EPA, and it hasn’t been that big of a deal. The US is a deeply conservative place where mistrust of government is strong. Republicans can pull off just about anything. Outside of certain urban pockets and the West Coast Democrats have to be perfect and charming to get half measures passed.

While the working class has suffered they have also suffered elsewhere and responded differently. Scotland in contrast to the US is very left-wing. They have free prescription drug coverage and undergraduate tuition. They have a strong left-wing political culture that finds the Tories in Westminster highly alienating. They have experienced high levels of deindustrialisation and enormous poverty. Glasgow lost half it’s population and Dundee’s recent history has been very painful. Yet, people still place faith in the government’s ability to solve their problems.

Another part of it is messaging. When I was in Sweden this summer I visited a national tourist site where there was a plaque that said more or less this site is owned by the people of Sweden, it is operated by insert government department here on their behalf. There is a monument at Herriot-Watt University that reads,”The rocks will melt with the sun before I allow tuition fees to be imposed on Scottish students.” I can not imagine anywhere in America that has wording like that.


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