The United States, that vast terrain with hundreds of millions of citizens, still exists — but not so, “America.” The plot against America, as described in Philip Roth’s 2004 book of that name, has succeeded. The person about to enter the White House in January will no longer be the leader of the free world. He and the extremists he’s appointed to key posts do not believe in the free world and do not represent it. Can a free world exist without America? It’s highly doubtful.
America, the one epitomizing the good values and spirit, is a sham. Some would argue that it never really existed. I disagree. It’s true that the glorious constitution of the United States recognized slavery, and that a hundred years after its abolition blatant segregation persisted. In the name of “America” and supposedly of “liberty,” some of the most horrific wars were waged and injustices carried out, from Vietnam to Chile.
In the United States they fight tooth and nail, in the political and religious arenas, in order to prevent damage to a fetus. “Pro-life,” they call it. But after a person is born his life doesn’t count. Those preaching the protection of embryos are the most adamant opponents of basic health insurance and the most avid supporters of exploitative capitalism. If a person has no money to buy medicine, let him die. If he commits a crime, they enthusiastically impose the death penalty on him.
And still, this is not “America” in its entirety and these are not its only banners. Since its establishment this nation has made some of the most noble and beautiful contributions to human progress and the human spirit. Due to this, it has flourished and enjoyed what is probably unprecedented prosperity.
No doubt there has been a steep price for some of these achievements. The country is far from being paradise on earth. However, it is not by chance that America has become a beacon and source of inspiration for the entire world. The Statue of Liberty at the entrance to New York’s waterways symbolized something real and true for the millions of arrivals on its shores.
Over the last few generations, and even more so during the Barack Obama years, America strove towards new goals, even if it didn’t fully realize them all. These included the first buds of a multicultural society, economic reforms and a real revolution in the status of women, the LGBT community, blacks and, yes, even Jews — none of whom were as accepted as they have become today.
Now comes the reaction, targeting America and the entire globe. The dissolution has already begun. Last week Russia dissociated itself from the International Criminal Court. Trump doesn’t have a shred of respect for institutions such as these and for what they represent. His transition team is getting ready to abandon the global climate accords. International responsibility? A better future for coming generations? Forget it. Each country for itself, and in each country each person for himself and his fate. There is no social responsibility, no human responsibility.
How deep into the abyss can it sink? Nobody can tell. Recent steps portend much evil. One thing is already clear: Advocates of democracy around the world, including those in Israel, should recognize that one cannot rely on America any more, and that looking for salvation from outside is pointless. There is no more America. Incidentally, if people on the right in Israel believe that this is encouraging, they may soon find out how dangerous American isolationism can be.
One should wish Americans success in their efforts to shake off the evil that has befallen them. Many are already linking arms and readying themselves for the struggle.
Until they succeed we here are on our own. Sad? Of course. Despondent? Not at all. As the saying goes, we survived Pharaoh and we’ll survive this as well.
Maybe something good will come out of this misfortune. We can divest ourselves of the illusion that international intervention will save us. Israeli society has sufficient resources, decent people and ways to take our fate into our own hands for the sake of achieving equality of human lives. No one will do this for us.
Published in "Ha'aretz"