When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Sources

Beyond Donald Trump, The Real Problem Is American Exceptionalism

The parade at Donald Trump's inauguration on Jan. 20
The parade at Donald Trump's inauguration on Jan. 20
Helio Schwartsman

-OpEd-

When Donald Trump spoke at his inauguration on Jan. 20, there wasn't even a hint of trying to be magnanimous. Instead, he called for the most narrow-minded form of nationalism. It's tempting to see this as one of the many personal shortcomings of the new president of the United States.

But that's not the point.

The inconvenient truth is that Trump merely exacerbates "American exceptionalism," that combination of vision and narrative that sees the U.S. as having a special role in the world. This viewpoint is an integral part of the country's DNA; it has been guiding the actions of all presidents since George Washington.

Obviously, some form of ethnocentrism is inherent in everyone to some extent. When people don't make up flattering stories about themselves, they tell jokes that place them higher than their neighbors. But the U.S. embodies this trait in the extreme.

The puritans who founded the U.S. like to describe it as a New Israel, a land that would have a special relationship with the Creator, one nation under God. And Americans aren't any more subtle when religion isn't mentioned. Abraham Lincoln, for instance, said in his famous Gettysburg address that the U.S."s special mission was to ensure that the "government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

So in the name of that special mission, the U.S. has sought to bring democracy and freedom to everyone on the planet. Different American governments have intervened in the most diverse countries around the world, sometimes bringing freedom but perhaps in a larger number of cases they ended up suppressing it.

Former president George W. Bush went as far as saying that American exceptionalism exempted the country from heeding to international law when it came to the invasion of Iraq.

Exceptionalism based on ethnocentrism is a bit like self-esteem. In reasonable quantities, it's fundamental to forging a healthy national psyche. But too much of it produces narcissistic personalities and even psychopaths. One thing's for sure — Trump cannot be diagnosed as someone with low self-esteem.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

Society

In Northern Kenya, Where Climate Change Is Measured In Starving Children

The worst drought in 40 years, which has deepened from the effects of climate change, is hitting the young the hardest around the Horn of Africa. A close-up look at the victims, and attempts to save lives and limit lasting effects on an already fragile region in Kenya.

Photo of five mothers holding their malnourished children

At feeding time, nurses and aides encourage mothers to socialize their children and stimulate them to eat.

Georgina Gustin

KAKUMA — The words "Stabilization Ward" are painted in uneven black letters above the entrance, but everyone in this massive refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya, calls it ya maziwa: The place of milk.

Rescue workers and doctors, mothers and fathers, have carried hundreds of starving children through the doors of this one-room hospital wing, which is sometimes so crowded that babies and toddlers have to share beds. A pediatric unit is only a few steps away, but malnourished children don’t go there. They need special care, and even that doesn’t always save them.

In an office of the International Rescue Committee nearby, Vincent Opinya sits behind a desk with figures on dry-erase boards and a map of the camp on the walls around him. “We’ve lost 45 children this year due to malnutrition,” he says, juggling emergencies, phone calls, and texts. “We’re seeing a significant increase in malnutrition cases as a result of the drought — the worst we’ve faced in 40 years.”

From January to June, the ward experienced an 800 percent rise in admissions of children under 5 who needed treatment for malnourishment — a surge that aid groups blame mostly on a climate change-fueled drought that has turned the region into a parched barren.

Opinya, the nutrition manager for the IRC here, has had to rattle off these statistics many times, but the reality of the numbers is starting to crack his professional armor. “It’s a very sad situation,” he says, wearily. And he believes it will only get worse. A third year of drought is likely on the way.

More children may die. But millions will survive malnutrition and hunger only to live through a compromised future, researchers say. The longer-term health effects of this drought — weakened immune systems, developmental problems — will persist for a generation or more, with consequences that will cascade into communities and societies for decades.

Keep reading...Show less

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

The latest