Are y’all fuckin’ Americans or something?

I’m not sure if he was just visiting or if he lives here, but he certainly was Dutch. For a small Irish fishing village of 850 people, I’ve met a fair share of ex-Hollanders. He’d draped a flag over the wall, under the television playing the World Cup final. At the time, the game was still tied, and he was trying to will the bar into rooting against the Americans.

It wasn’t too much later—somewhere between the first and second goals by the US—when it happened. It always does. I don’t remember the context or the reason, but I heard the name: Donald Trump. The subsequent collective sigh. A couple laughs at whatever joke was made. Everyone takes a drink, and the air of the room for a moment is deflated by the pricking pin of Well what can you do? psychology. I’ll never understand people.

Certainly, the Trump administration and its horror show of concentration camps and gaslighting is one of the worst in the post-Nixon era of the United States. Yet sitting in MacCarthy’s, listening to the chatter, watching the game, I wanted to stand on the bar and yell about how he’s no different than Obama, Bush or Reagan. Men who committed serious atrocities against human rights but were excused by one form of passive social abstinence or another: Obama’s drone warfare and deportation regime and anti-Occupy police excused by ‘liberals’ because, well, he was Obama. Somehow the absolute war criminal in George W Bush is given a pass because the fucker took up painting.1

These men were excused of their crimes because Americans treat politics the way they watch sports: it’s Us vs Them. You don’t question your team, you don’t doubt it whatsoever even after the final whistle blows.2 Except, of course, the framework for politics isn’t one of rules or structure or even a final fucking whistle, and the entire apparatus of metaphorically linking it to gamesmanship only weakens the people while the rich are free to propagate the idea they wouldn’t be better off hanging from lamp-posts across the country.

So now I just sit and boil. The internet has enabled everyone to believe their opinion is worthwhile, or even that criticism itself is worthwhile, and so liberals and conservatives endlessly battle each other on Facebook and the New York Times employs people like Russ Douthat and in the end it’s all a game even if it means children are locked in cages or the country starts illegitimate wars or destabilizes entire regions of the world out of the sight of everyday voters who are busy buying patio furniture.

And I sit and watch a group of American women—who, inexplicably, still have to fight for things like equal pay—dominate the rest of the world in a way that the rest of the United States should be envious of: with an authentic grace, a sincere passion and unrelenting commitment to greatness. These are all ideas that otherwise have been packaged, sold, and used as branding campaigns for everything from pharmaceuticals to wars, because that’s America now, and this empire is unrelenting and inescapable and we’re all fuckin’ Americans in this hellscape of a world.

But for at least a few minutes, watching those women, there was a shred of something to be proud of.

  • Hitler also painted.
  • Which, fine, if you’re a fan of a sports team and feel like a complete lack of criticism is a good thing then to each their own.