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Off The Cuff – An Outsider’s Observations

by Nicholas Atgemis |

I am not politically left or right but I don’t like what Donald Trump is and what he stands for.

For me, the United States after the second World War was the land of the righteous. Even if deals were being peddled between Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, even if Harry S Truman might in fact be a war criminal, it didn’t matter. You guys were trying to stop wars and coming to the rescue. You were the world’s Superman.

But what about now? Donald Trump is a wonderful mirror as one person wrote. He reflects all that is wrong with people these days. He uses fame and money for all the wrong reasons. He appeals to us for all the wrong reasons. He appeals to Australians for all the wrong reasons too. If I could tell you the sentiment I hear all the time which is ‘he did what he said he was going to do’ to ‘he calls it like it is’ to ‘well, against Joe Biden, they’re both shitty candidates but at least Trump talks up the economy’ to finally ‘he’s anti-establishment and that’s really driving them nuts’. Little sheep all bah-bahing the same thing they heard somebody else say but in a manner which makes them look like they did their own research and came to their own conclusions.

The weirdest part I find, is that he doesn’t just appeal to white people here, he appeals to migrants and the children of migrants in Australia too. That is what really alarms me.

Have you ever met a really good con artist? I have. He was so good at his craft. When you are in the presence of one you rarely have a chance to think clearly because you are moving with their line of thought and dialogue almost mesmerized. In the case of Trump, I sit their mesmerized that so many people are mesmerized by him in the background of his rallies and as I listen to what is coming out of his mouth - I get it. He is telling you some things that resemble truth in a pastiche which will be part truth, part bullshit, part hearsay, part fact, part statistic and partly an outright lie. The problem is - it is enthralling. You have to pull yourself away from it, or, as journalists do, keep a notebook and keep writing it down so you can fact check it on the fly or later that day.

Which is exactly how I dealt with a con artist many years ago. I took a notebook and pen to the meeting and I listened and wrote notes. Then I went to a security company and asked them to do a background check and, as you can imagine, he was exactly that, a con artist who had been involved in all sorts of criminal behaviour.

By making a judgement call on this said con man and listening to my gut I did not see it as a victory on finding out I was correct – I saw it as an aversion to a great calamity - which is what I see a vote for Joe Biden being for the US elections.

The United States is of cultural and strategic importance to Australia. Without you guys, we don’t really have anyone else we can rely on any more. We also house some of your key military assets in the South – with our Harold E Holt naval communications providing your ability to control ships and talk to your submarines under the Antarctic ice (not a bad place to hide right now, but for how much longer???? ), and Pine Gap – which allows you to control and utilise satellites effectively outside of the Americas. Then there is the cultural influence you exert and how many times your issues become our issues in our social media feed. We used to feel like the USA might be our 2nd home, more welcoming than England where we would always be from ‘the colony’.

To be fair, your country is not a place I’d like to live in anymore – unless I was very rich (which says something no?). When you arrive in the United States these days it feels less than welcoming. It takes a second flight to somewhere else in the States to start to feel like you are safe(er). Then of course, you want to 100% be sure that you have travel insurance. The last time I was in Los Angeles my cousin got sick and it cost him $11,000 aud with a doctor to come to his hotel just so that he could try and get home on the next plane. It is a land now that feels like this – if I don’t have money, if I don’t have insurance, this place will swallow me up whole if anything goes wrong’.

That’s not a place I want to visit anymore. That’s not the United States I once revered. After my own national anthem (Advance Australia Fair), the only one I ever bothered to rote learn was the Star Spangled Banner (maybe also the La Marseillaise but it never sunk in). It tells the struggle against the British, of a people who would fight for their right to exist free from their British masters at all costs.

What part of Donald Trump represents that spirit? To me he represents none of that spirit. He instead plays to your every weakness. Your belief that someone is going to come and take away what is yours. Your belief that you are better than the other person or country. Your belief that there are dark forces out there that are controlling what’s really going on. Your belief that what you know is all you need to know. Your belief that you are right.

What happened to the United States? What happened to decency? What happened to Superman?

I do hope that Americans get their act together and vote him out. I am a strong believer in the United States of America as a transformative and dynamic country. And let me say that some of the smartest people I have ever met were Republicans. But Donald Trump doesn’t strike me as a Republican. He strikes me as the USA’s greatest demagogue, and an effective one.

As an Australian, as the descendant of migrants, I would love to know that the country that in many ways resembles ours, that was also a colony of the British, that we could rely on in a case of emergency, was a robust democracy with a pursuit of equality and fairness that inspires not only myself, but my child as she grows up. Because right now, from where I am standing, Superman has bolted.