Why should a British person be so interested in US politics? Is it weird or shameful, like a Chelsea FC fan from Vladivostok? When I cannot name a German politician apart from Angela Merkel, why can I name, say, Brad Raffensperger? German politics affects me, now the mad Brexiters have reduced the UK to a powerless satellite of the EU, unable to control our own fisheries, with Northern Ireland, part of the kingdom, subject to laws made elsewhere and perhaps soon to be excised?
US politics affects me. There are still British troops in Afghanistan, suffering 454 deaths so far, who have caused many times more deaths. There were British troops in Iraq for eight years, with 179 deaths, causing many times more deaths. The total cost in Iraq was £9.24bn in 2010. The Trump administration defunding the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and reducing the climate data they collected makes action against climate change more difficult. Along with his other manoeuvres to prevent action against climate change, this makes the survival of human civilisation less likely.
There are US military bases in Britain. This is illegal, so they are, wholly fictionally, Royal Air Force bases. A single RAF lieutenant (pronounced leftenant) invites the Americans as his “guests”. Britain has nuclear missiles made and targeted in the US, hardly an “independent” deterrent. British politicians shamefully, oleaginously, whine about the “special relationship”.
The New York Times and The Atlantic, which I read, are mainly about the US, but their contents are relevant to me. There are QAnon and anti-maskers in Britain. What they say about social media informs my understanding of my own addiction to likes, and my understanding of how British, as well as American, people behave. Paul Krugman writes about the US economy, but about ways in which the Conservative government in Britain damage the British economy.
Then there is the purely American aspect: the interaction between Federal and State law and politics, the Electoral College, the law and politics around abortion. The technical issues Linda Greenhouse writes about, explaining the US Supreme Court in the NYT, are completely irrelevant to me, but the questions she writes about and the ways they are answered, such as the concept of “Originalism”, fascinate me. This is news as entertainment, for me, a story of how humans are outside my own experience, which enlarges my understanding of how humans can be. How do we solve problems? How do we disagree?
It becomes more personal for me, Zooming with Americans. I was aware of the murder in Charlottesville of Heather Heyer, but meeting and talking with someone from there makes it more real.
The more grotesque aspects of Donald Trump also form politics as entertainment. Trump says or does something disgusting or shocking, and I want to read about it just like rubbernecking a car crash. OMG what has he done/said now??? Demonstrators went to the airports to inveigh against the Muslim ban, and I was with them in spirit even though I could do nothing to advance their cause. I demonstrated against Trump when he came here. His machinations over the election was a fabulous drama.
I feel uncomfortable about these articles when it seems I am feeling other people’s feelings. Writers and publications are, rightly, disgusted or offended by Trump, and the articles communicate these feelings. It seems to me that feeling along with these feelings of contempt or anger, at an acceptable target, in an acceptable way to my community and my self-image, is addictive and cuts me off from my real feelings about situations more real and immediate to me. I want to understand the man, so read psychologists on his narcissism, and his 6 January speech to find how he gains the adulation and service of his crowds. I don’t want to be moved to outrage by every little thing he does. It’s not my outrage. It does me no good. And if Marjorie Taylor Greene wants to take over his role of owning the libs by shocking us, I have no wish to play along.
Finally, there is so much to inspire in the US. It may be the greatest country in the world.