I’m broadcasting to you from a small hotel room in the centre of Washington D.C. As I say these words, a group of tradesmen are boarding up my hotel. They have a truck with sheets of plywood. They measure each window. Cut a piece to size. They build a brace and a bracket. They drill the ply into place.
This, on the week of the 2020 U.S election, is not an unusual scene in the heart of America’s capital city. On Pennsylvania Avenue, a few hundred yards from the White House, they’ve already boarded up banks and drug stores. H&M is already boarded up. Potbelly Sandwiches is already boarded up. We’ve been warned that it won’t be safe to park our car on the street.
How did we get here? How did the world’s biggest economy, the giant gas-guzzling all-consuming pop culture mecca find itself in a position where Potbelly Sandwiches needs to have sheets of plywood over its windows? What the hell happened to America?
The temptation for many is to pin everything on Trump. But Donald Trump’s Presidency and the subsequent reactions to it, are a symptom not a cause.
People here speak past each other. America’s greatest strength – it’s vast, unrivalled diversity – is a quality that has been twisted upon itself. So many million Americans don’t see diversity, they see difference. Look at an issue from someone else’s perspective? Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes? Does anyone do that anymore? I can’t think of the last time I heard an American admit to changing their mind.
America’s media has only served to exacerbate the country’s problems. Cable news and Facebook, opiates to the masses, have manipulated human beings’ basic psychological functions and weaknesses to manipulate us into groups and pit us against each other. The money in American politics is forever hitting new limits. The cynicism in American politics isn’t far behind.
Earlier this week. 85 thousand people tested positive for Covid-19 in a single day. One thousand Americans died. I’m paranoid. I hand sanitise 15 times a day. On the flight from Los Angeles to Washington I spent most of the time trying desperately not to touch my face. And yet so many times in the last week, I’ve seen people in public wearing masks. When did believing science become a partisan political issue?
I don’t know what will happen on election day. I don’t know if by this time next week we’ll even have a result. Let’s just hope the plywood doesn’t prove to be necessary. For the sake of the United States, let’s just hope for peace.
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