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U.S. Election 2020 - Views From Abroad

Biden Beats Trump: The World And The U.S. Don't Quite Agree

A supporter of Joseph Biden watching him give his first address as president
A supporter of Joseph Biden watching him give his first address as president
Carl-Johan Karlsson

More than ever, last week's U.S. election was a global event. And as the four days of collective vote-counting finally culminated in a win for Joe Biden, the rest of the world seemed to react with a unanimous burst of hope for a clear change of direction.

Yet already in the wee hours of November 4, it was clear that Americans did not agree: There would be no decisive national repudiation of Trump, as hoped for by Democrats and foreign allies, and predicted by the polls.

Indeed, tuning in this past week from Paris began with a clear smack of déja vu. Four years ago, I was sitting in an expat drinking hole in Times Square as Trump won the state of Wisconsin on his way to the White House. The feeling in my gut brought memories of a seemingly very different event: the 2002 Winter Olympics, when Swedish goalkeeper Tommy Salo fumbled and dropped the puck against Belarus, costing my home country a prized hockey medal. How could something like this happen? What can we do to get it back?

In downtown Barcelona, Spain — Photo: Jordi Boixareu/ZUMA

We know now it was no fluke, and we've always known that certain things can never be undone. Trump's one-man-show, scorched-earth approach to leadership leaves deep damage both at home and abroad. Even as he gave Americans every conceivable reason to despise and distrust him — for his xenophobia and serial-lying, his objectively ham-handed management of the pandemic, for his disdain for law and democracy itself —, nearly half the country asked for more.

So how likely is it that Joe Biden will be able to bring unity to a country where Republicans might hold the Senate, and where Trump himself is bound to continue undermining the system with his nihilistic mastery of the electronic public square? Biden was, after all, seen by many as a past-his-prime candidate who only emerged in the primaries as an emergency solution to an unconvincing and fractured lineup of Democratic contenders.

Still, starting with Trump, too many have been selling Biden short. It may even be that he is the right man to face the particular grim set of circumstances that the country and the world face? His first act as president-elect to set up a task force to confront the COVID-19 pandemic is a clear message that he knows his priorities, and that things are about to change from the maskless, science-skeptical man he will replace in the White House. It is also a message to the world that many of our biggest challenges are global in nature, but can only be tackled if we have our own houses in order.

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Society

Parenthood And The Pressure Of Always Having To Be Doing Better

As a father myself, I'm now better able to understand the pressures my own dad faced. It's helped me face my own internal demands to constantly be more productive and do better.

Photo of a father with a son on his shoulders

Father and son in the streets of Madrid, Spain

Ignacio Pereyra*

-Essay-

When I was a child — I must have been around eight or so — whenever we headed with my mom and grandma to my aunt's country house in Don Torcuato, outside of Buenos Aires, there was the joy of summer plans. Spending the day outdoors, playing soccer in the field, being in the swimming pool and eating delicious food.

But when I focus on the moment, something like a painful thorn appears in the background: from the back window of the car I see my dad standing on the sidewalk waving us goodbye. Sometimes he would stay at home. “I have to work” was the line he used.

Maybe one of my older siblings would also stay behind with him, but I'm sure there were no children left around because we were all enthusiastic about going to my aunt’s. For a long time in his life, for my old man, those summer days must have been the closest he came to being alone, in silence (which he liked so much) and in calm, considering that he was the father of seven. But I can only see this and say it out loud today.

Over the years, the scene repeated itself: the destination changed — it could be a birthday or a family reunion. The thorn was no longer invisible but began to be uncomfortable as, being older, my interpretation of the events changed. When words were absent, I started to guess what might be happening — and we know how random guessing can be.

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