We have known each other now for four years. Since then our fascination for you has not weakened. You have occupied our thoughts and dreams about a future we do not want. About human behaviour that we thought we – as civilised people – had long since eradicated.
So now we actually have to thank you. Because you have shown us something very clearly; the truth about the future and about ourselves.
- You have shown us how narcism – all that me me me behaviour – that is part of a deeply disturbed person can create fear in insecure people and lead to mass hysteria.
- You have shown us how easily negative feelings can be manipulated, creating incendiary situations when exploiting social media.
- You have shown us that in every complex society, lies the danger of regression to a despotic state.
- Before our very eyes you have revealed how easy it is for people to fall back into an illusion of grandeur – with a type of nostalgia that leaves no breathing room for the future.
- You have also reminded us of something. Of our past. And the role which America played in it.
When our fathers and grandfathers came back from the second world war they were traumatised people in a traumatised land. They were disillusioned with an illusion they could not let go of. An illusion on a heroic scale, of limitless power that led to the worst atrocity in our history.
You, the Americans, showed us after the war what generosity is. What forgiveness and trust means, even in the face of so many victims. With your laid-backness, emphasis on freedom, your music and your wonderful Hollywood films. All this gave us a vision of an empathetic modernity – representing sensibility, enlightenment, pragmatism, and feeling. This is what Kennedy stood for, as did Rock ’n’ Roll, the Blues – and even road movies with their rebellious heroes.
America always stood for tomorrow, for the future and the hope of a better world. A world in which the individual can flourish and in which big common dreams can come true. This vision took us to the moon, to places in space no person had ever seen.
There were nevertheless always two Americas. Just as there were two Germanys. The cosmopolitan future-oriented America which could unite people regardless of race, religion or class. The communitarian America of communities and neighbourhoods – a civil society that we had long wished for. And then there was the dark, reactionary, lynching side of America. That is the America of the fanatical sects, slavery, the CIA, and the Cold War and other terrible wars. And in the middle of all this, in the America of disillusionment, unacknowledged disappointment, of obesity and despair – you Trump, established your rampant reign of fear.
We Germans have had to deal with the darkest depths of our history. Speaking for my generation that grew up in the Cold War, I can honestly say we did our very best to face up the truth. With your help America, with your protection, we more or less managed it. I can still remember when the film series »Holocaust« was on television. We were successful in recognising the monstrosity of the German history when we understood that that which is stupid, regressive and evil lives in us all. That is not external, but internal.
Germany today – modestly said – is a country that because it has understood this, has been able to create a democratic society. Even if we too have our own »Trumps« in parliament and on the street.
We are truly and deeply thankful for what you Americans gave us Germans and Europeans. That is why we are suffering all the more with this new American tragedy, with this infantilisation that is dragging us back towards a dull tribal state.
Dear Trump, perhaps you should have stayed around a while longer. It would have been quite useful since you are so good at illuminating madness. You showed us what this really meant. Every day that you get more like the Kim Jong-Uns and Lukashenkos of this world. It is clear that the steel works of the middle west will not return. Families will never be perfect in the way they were idealised in the glorious 60s (and by the way they never were perfect). Four more years. This could have been a lesson for us all. Because this could have made everything even clearer.
Like all despots you brought about what you fear most. You have not made America great again; you have made it fanatical and cold. Frightening and malicious. You have even done more for China than any politician before you. You have created a desire for truth and knowledge by virtue of the fact you have trampled on those very things! You have finished off America as a world power, thanks too to the global despot club who have been gleefully rubbing their hands together whilst you were in charge (and by the way, greetings from your dear friend Kim).
Ify you would have stayed in power, the truth would have crept closer to your illusions. We would have seen you fail, sooner or latter, that much is clear.
And nor would you have been able to halt the shift to post fossil fuel, as we urgently say goodbye to oil and the exploitation of nature that built industrialism, and for which America stood like no other country. American mayors are already meeting to agree to new CO2 reduction targets. Bit by bit, Wall Street is turning its back on toxic industry and is investing in Silicon Valley and in real future technologies. American states, cities, towns, are freeing themselves of centralised control – that very thing which you hate but at the same time represent. This new America could be a land of pioneers again – just as the constitutional fathers wanted. America was dividing in order to come together again.
How will we look back in the future on Trump? As a lesson. As the last big lump of toxic masculinity. But also, as the beginning of a counter-movement in which the global and the empathic, the local and the universal come together again. Let’s take the example of the prime minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern (the country where Karl Popper wrote “The Open Society and Its Enemies” during the Second World War). She showed how during a crisis you can unite a nation, how the humanism of affection can heal a society. She appointed a Maori woman with a tattoo on her face as foreign minister and continues to form a coalition with the Greens, even though she has an absolute majority.
Which party does Jacinda Ardern actually represent? Strangely it does not matter anymore. The future is unfolding in the form of human cooperation beyond the old political ideologies of the 20th century and the ruins of the »left« and the »right«. It is about a new integration of state, society, business and the self-responsible individual. That is the real American dream. That is what we call progress.
America is now entering the same phase that we Germans went through after the war. A phase of grief, conflict and destructive unrest. A confrontation with the wounds of the past. And hopefully a healing. The ancient Greeks called it catharsis. And we, as Europeans with a deep history of catharsis, should sympathise with it. The future is a decision. For democracy. For all that which is constructive, for humility and self-understanding. You brought us, dear Trump, a step closer to this realisation. And we thank you for that.