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The US is a deeply divided nation, with politicians exacerbating the polarised environment Image Credit: AFP

‘What is going on in the USA?’ Those were the exact words penned to me on a recent WhatsApp message by my cousin Abdulaziz. Now Abdulaziz is no ignoramus when it comes to America, having spent a considerable number of years there and graduated from the prestigious Standford University in California.

He displayed concern over recent trends in American politics citing the indictment of Hunter Biden, President Joe Biden’s son, the drive towards impeachment of the President by members of the US Congress, the never-ending saga of an ex-President, and the multitude of legal cases against him, and finally the overthrow of Kevin McCarthy, an elected Speaker of the House of Congress by a small group of members of his own party.

Indeed, just perusing these headlines would prompt most of us who have spent some time in the US for studies to wonder if there are indications that America is indeed on the decline and that the biggest challenge to their supremacy is being demonstrated by a great power to the east, China.

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'Decline of the American empire'

While I do have my own views on the subject, and I do qualify to put forth a credible argument, I did not want to sway Abdulaziz with the opinion of an outsider looking in. And so, I turned to several contacts, born and raised Americans, who could shed some light and offer an explanation to the question of what is happening to their country.

The first individual, and I chose to use first names only as requested, is a political analyst in a think tank based outside Washington DC.

Charles, as he is known to his friends was very direct. “I honestly believe we are seeing the decline of the American empire as we know it.”

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“This has been in the offing for several years, and events nowadays are leading to just that. There is a systematic breakdown in all principles that once made this country great, a land of the free and the home of the brave. But honestly today, those are just hollow words.” When I asked him if some changes could reverse the flow of his thinking, he was pessimistic. “Much as I would want it, I’m afraid that the damage done is too deep to get the proper healing.”

Jeremiah, a farmer in a Midwestern state blamed it all on the politicians. “My father and mother were Democrats and we grew up with strong democratic values. But what does the party stand for today? They have gone so far to the left that I am finding it extremely distasteful. Our children are being exposed to a curriculum that is offensive by nature, our police are being neutered and I mean neutered, and as a result, crime has risen exponentially while all we keep reading is how our politicians are busy sending money to other countries to fight their wars.”

Rising crime rate

“We need those dollars here in America, dollars that can go a long way to fund law enforcement and provide decent health care to the needy. We cannot continue being the world’s bread basket when we cannot afford to feed our own. Look around. There are hundreds of thousands of homeless Americans and more are on the rise. And guess what? Crime will shoot up beyond the capability of law enforcers.”

Nancy, a business owner who recently moved from California to Arkansas teasingly asked me what the business prospects were here in Saudi Arabia, as she was considering closing lock, stock and barrel a business that she had built over eighteen years but could not function in the atmosphere of the Los Angeles metropolis.

“My store is just a few steps from the famed Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills and yet it has been ransacked twice and my inventory destroyed in the process. The responding officers just shrug their shoulders as they take details that will probably go into files never to be opened again.”

Nancy continued: “You know, I was a fervent anti-gun activist, but by God, as soon as I get settled here in Arkansas, I am going to purchase the biggest gun and will not hesitate to use it on someone trespassing and taking off with my goods. The state by the way does not frown on law-abiding citizens blowing off criminals as I understand it. Why do you think so many Americans are arming themselves? They fear an Armageddon on the horizon and they want to be prepared.”

There were some others with their version of reality and I must say that there is validity in all their opinions as I find today’s America greatly divided; white versus black; rich versus the poor; parents versus school boards, Democrats versus Republicans and a host of other divisions slowly increasing the chasm within the American society. And politicians are eager to fan the flames. Is there any hope? Only time will tell.

— Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi sociopolitical commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena