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Trump Lost, But 'Our America' is Gone — A View From Abroad

Reflections on an election from far away, but still so close.

Protesters in Portland, Oregon in September
Protesters in Portland, Oregon in September
Ranjani Iyer Mohanty

NEW DELHI — Many of us non-Americans have long drunk the blue kool-aid of the red white and blue. Despite its shortcomings, we've grown up thinking that, at its heart, America lives up to its ideals of freedom and justice: where a free press, equal rights, and equal access to opportunity can be fully realized. We look to this singular nation where immigrants are welcomed, where the world's leading educational institutions prosper, and where progressive social thinking, scientific advancements, and a fair justice system are open to all. The home of Batman, Spiderman, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The election of Donald Trump in 2016, and the tumultuous past four years, no doubt gave us pause. So it was only natural that we would follow this month's election with both trepidation and hope. For days, we sat in front of our TV and computer screens, watching so closely that many of us now know not only the swing states, but the swing counties, from Allegheny, Pennsylvania, to Maricopa, Arizona. That Trump ultimately lost, however, can't erase the fact that he received 73 million votes (compared to Joe Biden's 78 million) — and should make us finally question what has been our naïve, simplistic, one-sided perspective of America.

The other half of America, which the world has effectively ignored for decades but which is growing in visibility and anger, is very different from the image we've constructed. They do not want immigrants — at least not those of color. They do not condemn racism. They don't believe in science or vaccines or that COVID-19 is a serious threat. The press is the enemy of the people, and the truth whatever they want it to be. And now they say they don't believe the 2020 elections were fair. They don't believe that Trump lost, or even could lose. Sure, within this half of a divided nation, there are some who may not truly believe in any of these things but they are prepared to stay quiet and sacrifice their rights in the hopes of getting jobs.

Trump was not their inspiration; he was merely their high-level mouthpiece. Even though he led their parade, he was clearly in it for his own gains.

We've learned from China that economic growth need not automatically lead to greater democracy. Now we're learning from the U.S. that democracy need not lead to a more open and progressive way of thinking. Indeed, the revelation of the past four years, and past two weeks, is that there's no guarantee that "once a democracy, always a democracy."

This could also portend the decline of a global superpower.

So facing these hard truths, what should those of us in the rest of the world do? We need to educate ourselves on the real America in all its complexities, and better anticipate its possible evolution. We need to see the U.S. for the deeply divided nation it is. The contentious relationship between Republicans and Democrats is not merely one between two political parties: It is a reflection of two opposing halves of America that seem to be sliding toward some kind of civil war, at least in terms of ideas. All of this could also portend the decline of a global superpower.

Indeed, it's time our countries explore alliances and institutions and agreements that are not centered around the U.S. We can no longer rely on the U.S. to protect our interests — be it in terms of global health, trade, climate, or security. It was naïve of us to think they ever could. Some years ago, when Henry Kissinger was visiting India, he was asked a rather long-winded question as to why Washington had adopted certain policies that were detrimental to India. He leaned forward and in his low, gruff voice, succinctly said, "American foreign policy is for Americans."

Hopefully America will soon have a man in the White House who doesn't speak with the cynicism of a Kissinger or a Trump. But the world will never look at America in quite the same way again.

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Shame On The García Márquez Heirs — Cashing In On The "Scraps" Of A Legend

A decision to publish a sketchy manuscript as a posthumous novel by the late Gabriel García Márquez would have horrified Colombia's Nobel laureate, given his painstaking devotion to the precision of the written word.

Photo of a window with a sticker of the face of Gabriel Garcia Marquez with butterfly notes at Guadalajara's International Book Fair.

Poster of Gabriel Garcia Marquez at Guadalajara's International Book Fair.

Juan David Torres Duarte


BOGOTÁ — When a writer dies, there are several ways of administering the literary estate, depending on the ambitions of the heirs. One is to exercise a millimetric check on any use or edition of the author's works, in the manner of James Joyce's nephew, Stephen, who inherited his literary rights. He refused to let even academic papers quote from Joyce's landmark novel, Ulysses.

Or, you continue to publish the works, making small additions to their corpus, as with Italo Calvino, Samuel Beckett and Clarice Lispector, or none at all, which will probably happen with Milan Kundera and Cormac McCarthy.

Another way is to seek out every scrap of paper the author left and every little word that was jotted down — on a piece of cloth, say — and drip-feed them to publishers every two to three years with great pomp and publicity, to revive the writer's renown.

This has happened with the Argentine Julio Cortázar (who seems to have sold more books dead than alive), the French author Albert Camus (now with 200 volumes of personal and unfinished works) and with the Chilean author Roberto Bolaño. The latter's posthumous oeuvre is so abundant I am starting to wonder if his heirs haven't hired a ghost writer — typing and smoking away in some bedsit in Barcelona — to churn out "newly discovered" works.

Which group, I wonder, will our late, great novelist Gabriel García Márquez fit into?

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