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Trump’s presidency prompts a new feeling toward the U.S. from abroad

A columnist for the Irish Times with the unimaginably Irish name of Fintan O’Toole has written an eloquent, brilliant and unutterably sad piece about what the incumbency of the current president has done to the standing of the United States in the world.

The headline on the column is:

“Donald Trump has destroyed the country he promised to make great again”

Here’s the lead: 

Over more than two centuries, the United States has stirred a very wide range of feelings in the rest of the world: love and hatred, fear and hope, envy and contempt, awe and anger. But there is one emotion that has never been directed towards the US until now: pity.

Without a subscription, that as much as you see, although the lead is a very good, if somewhat heart-breaking summary,

I’ve read the whole thing and hope it will appear somewhere else where you can access it, but what I’ve already passed along captures O’Toole’s argument. His list of feelings toward our poor, dear nation held in minds and hearts around the world is brilliant, and it’s worth thinking about every one.

Nor do I think the American minority that adores or even supports Trump will shrink much, even if they were to accept that their hero engenders sadness even unto “pity” in the rest of the world. Nor do I suggest that the main reason we urgently need to get a better person in the Oval Office as soon as possible is to restore our standing in the world.

The list of reasons is long and, to borrow the crushing last line of O’Toole’s lead, pitiful.

This link will get you the top of the O’Toole column on the Irish Times site. You can make out most of the second paragraph, and, if you are so motivated, to subscribe.

Comments (24)

  1. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 04/29/2020 - 09:43 am.

    Which calls to mind the words of Governor Winthrop:

    For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 04/29/2020 - 02:46 pm.

      Of course,, a half dozen years later Roger Williams and his followers headed south to found Rhode Island after finding that the ‘City on a Hill’ was welcoming only to true believers.

    • Submitted by David Markle on 04/29/2020 - 04:14 pm.

      Thanks for this wonderful reminder.

  2. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 04/29/2020 - 11:16 am.

    Pity sounds about right, that is exactly what Trump and his zombies want, because he and them are always complaining on how bad people treat him/them, its everyone else’s fault but theirs, I suspect the other is confusion, how could America be so ignorant as to elect such a hateful conman, and do nothing about it time after time?

  3. Submitted by Thomas McCarthy on 04/29/2020 - 12:27 pm.

    I found the entire story here:

  4. Submitted by tom kendrick on 04/29/2020 - 12:34 pm.

    It’s up to the rest of us to take back our country: vote.

  5. Submitted by BK Anderson on 04/29/2020 - 12:47 pm.

    Mr. O’Toole is a famous writer and I’m sure his piece is wonderfully eloquent. But I doubt the sympathy being expressed therein is much felt throughout the world’s citizens, as they watch the (very dangerous) Trump circus, with a mentally unbalanced fool and conman as barking ringmaster. Trump is America’s malevolent “Joker”. Are we to pity a Trump?

    It’s difficult to have pity for a people who despise you, and that is the Trump movement’s stance towards most of the rest of the world (dictatorial regimes generally excepted). Trump’s juvenile “America First!”, “MAGA!” nonsense was never going to inspire pity and sympathy for the American predicament under the know-nothing Trump. Nor is our wilful refusal to address (or even discuss) the anti-democratic elements of our failed “system” that our conservative movement now relies upon, elements that have no place in a functioning modern democracy.

    I suppose we can say that helpless populations who suffer under the oppression of dictators or theocrats generate pity for their predicament. Thus one can/could pity the Iraqis under Saddam, or the Tibetans under their Chinese overlords, or even the Warsaw Pact nations behind the Iron Curtain. But it’s difficult to see how that principle could extend to a powerful, wealthy, Jingoist people who noisily and incessantly proclaim their Glorious Constitution, democratic “rule of law” and rights to liberty and self determination at every juncture. In other words, we (unlike, say, the Tibetans) are the authors of the appalling circumstance we find ourselves in, it was not forced upon us.

    We live in a non-democratic nation run by a minority faction of radical reactionaries for the benefit (mostly) of existing plutocrats and the handmaidens (like McConnell) who serve them. This is the situation that has obtained for most of the 21st Century, and if the conservative movement has its way, it will continue indefinitely under the guise of The Wisdom of the Framers.

    Since America’s “conservatives” are committed to willfully dragging the rest of the world into the ecological abyss and generally making sensible international diplomacy impossible, so I think the patience of even the most sensitive Irishman will begin to wear thin at last….

  6. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 04/29/2020 - 12:54 pm.

    Which reminds me of the clip with campaign trail Trump spouting over and over:

    “The rest of the world is laughing at us”

    And then followed by clips of Trump’s UN speech where they did all laugh out loud as he spoke and then on to the conference where the hot mike caught Johnson, Macrone and Trudeau laughing at him.

  7. Submitted by Keith Dawson on 04/29/2020 - 02:26 pm.

    For those desiring to read the whole of Fintan O’Toole’s piece, here it is archived from the Interesting People mailing list, which is run by Prof. Dave Farber, the “Paul Revere of the Internet” (per Wired Magazine).

  8. Submitted by Brian Simon on 04/29/2020 - 09:13 pm.

    I happened across the piece by another route; I could only read the first paragraph, but there’s an audio stream of the author reading the complete work.

  9. Submitted by John Evans on 04/30/2020 - 12:45 pm.

    You’ve had an oddly idealized notion of how we are viewed from the outside. For generations, people in the more developed countries have considered us ignorant knuckle draggers because, no matter how much money we have, we do very little to improve our country or the lives of our people.

  10. Submitted by Chris Kurtz on 04/30/2020 - 01:32 pm.

    It’s not uncommon for the US to be portrayed in term’s of its president, or at least how some view the president from abroad.

    Pity for the US seems obtuse. It’s interesting how a president who is the most pro-USA president since Reagan is nevertheless considered a net negative to many foreigners, not to mention many Americans.
    It bothers them that Trump believes the USA is a real country with real borders, not just some nebulous, abstract idea. It bothers them that our borders aren’t just wide open. Domestically, the left can’t decide one moment whether immigration is a federal jurisdiction or a responsibility.
    Neither are critics happy when Trump reminds our NATO allies that they aren’t living up to their financial responsibilities with regards to their own defense. Our European allies resent him for it. At home, his critics accuse him of undermining US alliances. Go figure.
    Critics are also bothered by Trump’s aggressive stance toward China and its corrosive reality and sheer arrogance.
    More broadly, they don’t even like it that he promotes the US and its possibilities unabashedly, with overt pride and enthusiasm, because that’s just making other countries feel bad.

    Nope, a strong president isn’t liked by much of the world.

    Pity them.

    • Submitted by ian wade on 04/30/2020 - 03:45 pm.

      No, pity us. Trump isn’t pro USA, In fact, Trump might be the most unpatriotic person to ever hold office. He knows nothing about civics, the history of this country or the true ideals that have made it great. Hugging the flag for a photo op and insisting on a military display for a 4th of July celebration reeks of despotism. He’s a simpleton not worthy of holding a city council position, much less the presidency.
      Strength? No…cowardice.

      • Submitted by Chris Kurtz on 05/02/2020 - 07:16 pm.

        It’s ironic that Trump, if he’s so ignorant of his own country, manages to over-index on promoting his country. Obama was heralded as a “constitutional scholar,” but he was overt about his discomfort with the US Constitution for not explicitly granting rights. It wasn’t enough apparently for it to note what our government cannot do to us. He also appears to have been just knowledgeable about it to ignore it whenever he felt like it.

        Many accuse Trump of being constitutionally illiterate and even of violating the Constitution. But, when push comes to shove, he hasn’t ever violated it that anyone can point to and actually back up. Railing against CNN isn’t a violation of the 1st Amendment whether it be Trump or the press. And so on.

        And you know what’s really amazing? It’s how many people think the US Constitution applies not just to the USA, but to EVERYONE IN THE WORLD!
        It’s gotten so ridiculous in the US because the civics you seem to value aren’t even being taught in our schools.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 04/30/2020 - 03:47 pm.

      Now if we only had one, rather than a failed investor and actor who’s more bark than bite.
      And of course in the real world he’s actually sucking up to Xi.

    • Submitted by Patrick Tice on 04/30/2020 - 04:44 pm.

      You really should read the entire essay. Trump talks about plenty of grievances and pretends to care about America, but absolutely everything he does screams “me first”. He has certainly failed to be a president for all of us – his greatest skill is to separate us and turn us against each other. We are doomed unless with get rid of him in November – and if he is replaced, it will be yeoman’s work to rebuild our country and our reputation. Frankly, I think it will not happen in my lifetime, and I’m sad about that.

      • Submitted by Chris Kurtz on 05/02/2020 - 07:04 pm.

        The yeoman’s work is trying to get a bunch of US citizens back to thinking the USA is a real nation with real borders, with traditions of its own, laws of its own. Whatever Trump’s bluster, who on the Left is advocating defending our borders with anything but platitudes? Who on the left is fighting to stop illegal immigration and shut down sanctuary cities? Who on the left is willing to stand in the middle of a gaggle of NATO leaders and chastise them on behalf of the US taxpayer?
        It’s amazing all Trump is trying to do to be president of this country, on behalf of this country. All he gets for it is a bunch of marshmallow criticisms from so-called Americans who think bashing him and the USA is hip, thinking it will endear them to Europeans or something. It’s pathetic.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 04/30/2020 - 09:36 pm.

      No, the rest the world just understands the distinction between actual strength and bluster. Donald Trump is a coward and a weakling. A man who was handed a fortune and spent his adult life failing at one business after another. A man who when faced with a real crisis as president, has failed in spectacularly catastrophic fashion. Pro-USA? There is nothing pro-USA about his divisiveness and dishonesty.

      Donald Trump is a pathetic loser, which is apparent to the rest of the world.

  11. Submitted by James Carper on 05/02/2020 - 08:51 am.

    Just created an account with your publication based on you promoting yourself as “non-partisan” journalism. Then I came across this piece. You (and all the readers who responded) take one opinion piece from one foreign country and you use that to universally condemn everything about President Trump; without any reference to even a single accomplishment or contrary view. Where’s the balance, where’s the objectivity? Do you not believe that someone with an overly positive view of the President could find a well written opinion piece from a foreign country complimentary of President Trump and use that to universally laud everything about him? That would be just as absurd as the views you’re expressing here. (What do you think supporters of Brexit think about President Trump?)

    After reading some of the excellent, informative pieces MINNPOST has on Covid-19, I was excited to think I had found a truly nonpartisan, non agenda-driven news source. Sadly, I was mistaken. Glad I stopped short of making a donation.

    You really should consider changing your tag line. Based on this piece it is highly dishonest!

  12. Submitted by Michael Bambery on 05/03/2020 - 11:08 am.

    Although I don’t agree with each statement that he made, Mr Carper’s comments are the most reflective of my own views of all those written above.

    And I want to emphasize my agreement with Mr Carper that the description of this publication as being “nonpartisan” should possibly be removed – unless Mr Black’s and Mr O’Toole’s writings in this case are exceptions to MinnPost’s goal of “Nonpartisan” reporting. Give me balanced writing (i.e., “journalism”), please, or give me hopelessness for my country’s future. So, yes, a properly functioning Fourth Estate is crucial for our Country’s health and well-being.

    Anyway, can true journalism be partisan/slanted/biased? Isn’t that a contradiction? A failure to “walk the talk”! It does feel good, though, to write the sort of one-sided rants (however free of vulgarity) that Mr O’Toole apparently wrote. Yet, my good gosh, it feels so good to say and to write negative stuff. To get on that bandwagon. Alternatively it feels so good to write Pollyannish stuff. To get on that bandwagon. Mr O’Toole, with Mr Black’s assistance, is further crystallizing the Partisan Divide that is eroding our Nation. Shame on you both.

    It is far, far, far more difficult to do balanced reporting. And I dare say I am not the only citizen of the United States that is starving for it. Starving for complete pictures! I know, MinnPost and Mr Black, that balanced, objective reporting is a hard sell. It’s also harder to digest for readers I will admit. And I’m including myself. But challenge us – explicitly! Our Country needs both sides now more than ever. No joke, folks!

    And besides all else, isn’t President Donald Trump, with his personal and business histories, and with his Presidency, truly just a symptom of a far larger, far more complex and far scarier set of truths about how our Country has evolved to be functioning?

    Please write about that. Write about the good and the bad. In this case write about the current President’s plusses and minuses – not incessantly about Donald Trump’s shortcomings. Write articles about a way out of this – a way forward for our Country. Now that would be living up to the true definition of journalism as I understand it. And that would be living up to the responsibilities of The Fourth Estate. Let MinnPost show all of us how to start dismounting from the Partisan Joyride that’s contributing to our destructive spiral.

    C’mon, Mr Black, this could be in your wheelhouse. Just please, if you do undertake such a major task, you must humanize the writing and at very step of the way you must avoid becoming pedantic. Just helpful hints. Now there’s the potential for a Pulitzer – if I may say so!

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