Are citizens from other countries secretly laughing at the United States because of our president and his tweets?

…was the question put to me, recently.

Well. Well, well, well. The gut response to this (as just such a citizen from another country) is that we aren’t “secretly laughing at the United States because of your president and his tweets”. No, we’re openly laughing at you. There’s video footage of it, too: from the NATO leaders openly sniggering at him during the 2017 Brussels summit:

To world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, succumbing in 2018 to full-throated laughter, both at his apparent ignorance of historical reality, and at his unalloyed egomania:

One could argue that, if world leaders, who are seasoned politicians and diplomats, are openly laughing at him, then your average Citizen Joe is probably rolling on the floor, slapping his thighs in hysterics.

Here’s where my view may differ from many who claim we (Europeans) are laughing at the US: I don’t think the hypothetical scenario I describe above fits the bill, because firstly, Trump isn’t funny. People are laughing out of discomfiture. Secondly, it implies that we care more about you than you seem to think. This is a standard feature of American exceptionalism: the belief that you are pre-eminent in the world, and that the rest of us look to you as some sort of example. We do (among highly developed countries, at any rate), but as an example of what not to be. We are wary of your obvious military superiority, and doubly so, since you put someone of questionable mental stability in charge of the nuclear codes. Other than that, you’re not exactly at the forefront of our thoughts and minds, because we have better things to do, like enjoying our superior standard of living, our culture, our universal healthcare, enjoying going out without getting shot, and so forth.

Many citizens from highly developed nations provide commentary on social media platforms, critical of the US and the current occupant of the White House, but, as I have suggested in the past, this is only because we’ve seen how much better you can be. If we didn’t think you had it within you to be the inspiration you clearly aspire to be, we wouldn’t bother commenting.

So, rather than laughing, what happens instead is that a sort of “bullshit fatigue” sets in (sometimes equated with “adrenal fatigue” in some sources, but this is not an officially recognised diagnosis; coincidentally, it’s what people often complain of after prolonged exposure to a pathological narcissist): we’re bored of the utter lack of decorum and the vulgarity, the neverending rage-tweet tantrums, the childish insults, the grammatically challenged down-punching, the pathological need to make everything about him, the constant, obvious lies. Here’s a recent one from his current trip, the G7 summit in France:


(You almost have to admire the twisted talent it takes to pack so much blatant mendacity into one sentence.)

And yet, the English-speaking internet being dominated by American activity, short of muting, deactivating, or unsubscribing from every type of news by keyword (such as “Trump”, “USA” or “American”), we can’t do much about it: we’re a captive audience. It’s just that we’re a bit less captive than you, by virtue of being outside of the US, by having our own, less US-biased news sources, and by not generally receiving the shamelessly propaganda-laden domestic news that you get fed to you.

Much like many Americans, I suspect those of us outside of the US and with an interest in US affairs are not (or no longer) laughing. We’re just exhausted.

The Evangelical Persecution Complex – The Atlantic

It’s five years old, but there are some fascinating insights in this piece by Alan Noble, assistant professor of English at Oklahoma Baptist University, into why evangelicals sometimes become irate and reflexively self-victimise when prevented from being discriminatory towards others.

[S]uffering in life is not a sign that God has abandoned the faithful, or that the Gospel is not the truth. This is a radical thing about Christ, and, coincidentally, the reason why Nietzsche called Christianity a “slave morality”: Christ’s suffering on the cross is an inversion of worldly conceptions of success and power. His model is of sacrifice and selflessness—persecution is a constituent part of his divinity, not a sign that he was defeated.

Full article here.


We’re Not Here To Eat Your Babies



I was asked on a public question-and-answer forum recently (and somewhat plaintively):

Why do people always associate atheism with evil? Recently moved to a Protestant community, and you’d think I was burning upside-down crosses over here.

As an atheist, I can empathise, although living in a relatively secular part of the world, I’m fortunate in not having to deal with rampant, pervasive religiosity.

There’s a meme floating around that says:

You don’t need religion to have morals. If you can’t determine right from wrong, then you lack empathy, not religion.

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He Taketh Away


I live in a small village, on the northern shore of quite a big lake. This is prime Central/Western European wine country. The river Rhône flows through the lake. At times, when the lake is still, you can see the Rhône’s current, rippling lengthwise down the lake’s midsection. If you’re a swimmer and out far enough, you can pass from the cool of the lake to the glacial chill of the river running through it, reminding you of its birthplace, high up in the Swiss Alps.

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Problem-solving, Non-US style


Credit: Mark Baker/AP

In the wake of the recent, tragic mass shooting by an Australian white supremacist terrorist in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the resolve, voiced by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Attorney General David Parker, to drastically tighten gun laws, there has been a predictable outpouring of defiance and incredulity from across the Pacific, the Second Amendment zealots presumably seeing in such pragmatism an erosion of their constitutional rights to totemise their collective fear responses, and to hell with the consequences.

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