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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.

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Economy

Europe's Winter Energy Crisis Has Already Begun

in the face of Russia's stranglehold over supplies, the European Commission has proposed support packages and price caps. But across Europe, fears about the cost of living are spreading – and with it, doubts about support for Ukraine.

Protesters on Thursday in the German state of Thuringia carried Russian flags and signs: 'First our country! Life must be affordable.'

Martin Schutt/dpa via ZUMA
Stefanie Bolzen, Philipp Fritz, Virginia Kirst, Martina Meister, Mandoline Rutkowski, Stefan Schocher, Claus, Christian Malzahn and Nikolaus Doll

-Analysis-

In her State of the Union address on September 14, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, issued an urgent appeal for solidarity between EU member states in tackling the energy crisis, and towards Ukraine. Von der Leyen need only look out her window to see that tensions are growing in capital cities across Europe due to the sharp rise in energy prices.

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In the Czech Republic, people are already taking to the streets, while opposition politicians elsewhere are looking to score points — and some countries' support for Ukraine may start to buckle.

With winter approaching, Europe is facing a true test of both its mettle, and imagination.

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