On Monday, government offices were closed in Washington DC, to mark Columbus Day. Except that most of them had been closed anyway, because of the US government shutdown. As everyone knows, Christopher Columbus was an Italian navigator who, in the service of the Spanish crown, supposedly "discovered" America and reported its potential to a wondering world. I have spent the summer in the United States watching, with growing alarm, a country engaged in a degree of self-harming which, if observed in a teenager, would lead any friend to cry "call the doctor at once". As I set course back to Europe, my conclusion is this: America should do a reverse Columbus. The world no longer needs to discover America; but America urgently needs to discover the world's view of America.
Ordinary Americans, and especially the small minority active in Democrat and Republican primaries, must learn more of what people across the globe are thinking and saying about the US. For if you follow that, you realise that the erosion of American power is happening faster than most of us predicted – while the politicians in Washington behave like rutting stags with locked antlers.
~ from Americans Need to Discover How the World Sees Them by Timothy Garton Ash ~
It's not just the shutdown either, though I'm sure that makes us look like boobs to most Europeans. On issue after issue, too many Americans are absolutely clueless as to how this nation is viewed by others.
Most of the world doesn't like our steady use of drones because they think that drones fuel far more terrorism than it quells. They don't like our military/economic strong arm tactics and they certainly have not been happy to learn that the US government is spying on them 24/7. They think our response to mass shootings and general gun violence borders on insanity. Most of all, the vast majority of the world's citizens are tired of American hypocrisy -- do as we say, not as we do -- that often rears its head in the form of American Exceptionalism.
The American empire may not be dead yet, but that day is coming and, as Garton Ash remarks, the end may arrive a lot sooner than a lot of people realize. If our leaders -- as well as many in the unwashed masses -- don't learn the lesson of humility, we may soon discover that paybacks can be hell!