Other western republics don’t have an equivalent of this. Benedict Cumberbatch isn’t going to shoot all the terrorists who have occupied 10 Downing Street. There are no Canadian cinemas about a ripped Will Arnett saving 24 Sussex Drive from foreigners. In London Has Fallen , the American president kicks some ass while the assassination of the British PM triggers the plot and the leaders of Canada, Germany, Italy, France, and Japan are unceremoniously blown up by terrorists. The American President is a mythical figure who destroys anyone who dares to fuck with him, while the leaders of other countries are expendable plot devices scarcely worthy of mention unless it’s to fuel President Aaron Eckhart’s righteous vengeance.
London Has Fallen is an extremely stupid movie that unknowingly sums up how America ensure itself and its president — as the action-movie hero who needs to save the world. London’s Metropolitan Police, who in real life just stopped a terror attack within minutes , are tricked by the terrorists, slaughtered, then pulled back to wait for America to save their own city. It’s a powerful fiction, except in reality the guy currently playing the lead role is more fit to star in Paul Blart: Mall Cop than Independence Day , and Americans are struggling to wrap their heads around that.
In my hour visiting America, absorbing American news and pop culture, talking to my American friends and colleagues, and pretending to be a cute American teen in online games to extort virtual money and items from lonely Chinese sons, there are two common notions I’ve considered everywhere. The first is that the modern American government is a necessary evil that cannot be trusted. Even Americans who are in favour of, say, an ever increasing government role in healthcare, love to grumble about other aspects of the government. Extreme advocates of “big” government in America would be bearing moderates in Europe.
The second belief is that George Washington and another Founding Parents were unimpeachable heroes who forged a great country from the crucible of war. Appear at all the cities and parks and monuments named after Washington .~ ATAGEND Your nation’s capital is named after him, and then, merely to get the point across, you also constructed a giant dick in his name in the middle of his city. America is preoccupied with its own origin story — you wrote a three-hour, historically questionable musical about one of your Founding Parents and promptly proclaimed it one of the best musicals ever constructed .~ ATAGEND Look at the songs , the books , and the giant heads carved out of a goddamn mountain. Look at the monument you built to one of your most important chairpeople, and compare it to the monument Canada built for one of its most important prime ministers.
America is built on mythology as much as fact — not many people have studied the Revolutionary War in exacting detail, but everyone half-remembers something from elementary school about subverting the evil British oppressors who forced cruel taxes on their forefathers. That’s what America is, in its own legend. It’s a country that kicks ass and takes in huddled masses hankering to breathe free, but right now it’s unemployed people guy at the bar growling about how he used to have everything until he caught a few bad breaks.
Every country wants myths to function, but most countries do not have origin stories that interesting. Canada was formed out of economic convenience and fear of American aggressivenes. If I challenged the average Canadian to name our Fathers Of Confederation, everyone would name our first prime minister, then people would start to panic and ask if Labatt Blue was a real guy, then they’d fling something at me and run away. I couldn’t do much better. Most Canadians could probably name more American presidents than our own leaders, if only thanks to culture osmosis. Americans talk about their chairmen like that guy who just got really into vaping and wants to attain damn sure that you know it.
We don’t build elaborate monuments to our leaders and founders. There are no big-budget movies celebrating all the paperwork they signed. If person wrote a musical about George-Etienne Cartier, it would play one showing to an empty house. Modern prime ministers are not slavishly compared to the first few, and no one is terribly concerned if a legislator is following the spirit of what another legislator wrote down centuries ago. Our leaders are just … people. Important people who deserve to be remembered and analyzed, but people who are allowed to fade-out into history like pogs or, God willing, Hamilton . So we have our shifts in power, but we don’t have people calling at each other on social media and panicking about the state of their country when we do.
You can judge for yourself whether such an approach is better or worse. But the problem with having idols is that they eventually let you down. And when you adore an office — when you build giant statues that extol its holders to be larger than life, when you movie power fantasies that look like tales despots would want told about themselves — you are defining yourself up for disappointment. If you constantly declare that American presidents are the greatest people in the world, some not-very-great people are going to want the honor. And then you end up with a president who gives your nation an existential crisis that you helped create.
Though, to be honest, I’m kind of looking forward to a martial art movie with Trump as the main character.