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My friend Luis...
The biggest reasons I started writing these posts is to give friends and family a sense of what life is like on this side of the world during this extraordinary time as well as provide a different US “outsider” perspective as a keenly interested and tax paying observer of all things USA. One obvious factor that shapes your perspective are the people you talk to and spend time with here. There are a couple of US expats in our circle of friends but more are Spanish nationals some with US ties and some without. A bit ago Vice President Pence made a speech declaring that the US is respected again abroad…he clearly isn’t hanging out with the same people that I am.
The overwhelming reaction in my circle of fairly well heeled friends in Spain and France is a mixture of bemusement, sadness and pity. Remember, you still can’t come to Europe as an American citizen because of the Country’s response to the virus which pretty much says it all. The fact that the US was the best prepared country for something like this, with the best medical information and deepest reservoir of scientific research has only left people here more amazed…”you had the best information from the best resources and yet you ignored it?” And then they remember who purports to lead us through this time of crisis and the head shaking accelerates. No, despite the Olympic worthy mental gymnastics of the Trump faithful who Sunday on the pundit shows were tasked to perform on the “uneven parallels”, the “unbalanced beam supported by alternative facts” and the “flying rings of falsehoods” the judges here graded them well below being medal worthy.
I’ve been really fortunate to meet some really interesting and amazing people here from a variety of backgrounds and points of view. Luis, mentioned in my title, is one of the most fascinating to me. Coming from a well bred Spanish family, he was educated in the US at a high end liberal arts college, got an MBA and started working in investment banking. He was on the fast track to big money and stepped out to return to Spain for reasons that none of his US contemporaries likely understood as they were all about quality of life. Don’t assume for a second that any of that means that Luis is less than a fierce, free market loving capitalist. He manages a fund here and has had a strong track record of returns. He is also a dyed in the wool contrarian, as are many great investors. He questions everything and loves nothing more than taking a very well considered position that is guaranteed to piss of a majority of people who think they know more than he does. I count myself as one of them especially as it relates to climate change where he stubbornly refuses to yield his contrarian opinion. He detests the current left of center government here with an unsurpassed passion and insists that the communists are nearer a return with an even more insidious form of governance.
He writes a weekly blog that I need a double dose of prozac to get through. It is unrelenting in both its intelligence and prophesies of ruin. The one shining light that he has allowed to penetrate has been a belief that if all else here fails he will go back to the US where the country he left, was in a much better place than the one he currently calls home. That light has started to dim and rather than try to summarize I’ll let you read it straight from him:
The unique grotesqueness of Donald Trump is mostly lost in translation. The crudeness of his language, his ignorance, his infantile narcissism, his buffoonery, his belligerence, his racism, his arrogance, his whining self-pity just don’t quite come across in the printed, translated word. This means I sometimes have difficulty explaining to friends and colleagues in Spain just how polarizing and destructive Trump has been for the country. The typical reaction in Spain is, “Oh, just like here.”
But no, it is not just like here. It is much, much worse.
In just three and a half years, he has turned the U.S. into a pitiable, distrusted laughingstock. It has become the equivalent of the schoolyard bully who has lost his following, and now nobody goes near him. Why would you? The percentage of Americans who believe the country is on the right track bounces along at historic lows, while faith in democracy withers.
Aided and abetted by a once-great but now servile Republican Party, he has neutralized those arms of government meant to assure accountability or impartiality. He has fired or forced the departure of five executive branch inspector-generals, who in the course of their duties to prevent, detect and expose fraud or mismanagement found fault in their departments. He has abused the powers of his office to favor his re-election campaign and his businesses – remember when we were going to have a G-7 summit at the Trump National Doral resort in Miami? Did you hear about the Ambassador to the UK who tried to get them to move the British Open to Trump Turnberry in Scotland?
But this is all just leading up to his last act. That will be to inflict a body blow to democracy. Whether he fails or succeeds will depend on hundreds of people doing the right thing, standing up to threats and intimidation, possibly risking life and livelihood. Or not.
We are further down the road than most realize.
Preach brother Luis, preach…