Losing old friends is sad

I have probably seen every episode of The Monty Python Flying Circus. My teenage room was decorated with posters of an androgynous David Bowie. My turntable played Elton John, Nazareth and Genesis. As a kid I read all of Enid Blyton’s books. Culture from the UK was a big part of my early years. I was a big fan of British humor. Before last summer the UK also used to be Sweden’s foremost ally in the EU. We seemed to share common values including fiscal prudence and a dislike of the more federalist tendencies within the EU.

My world view was shattered when the UK voted for leaving the EU, arguably to stop immigration. It felt like being abandoned by an old friend. It was sad for real. To me it seemed like the British had become an arrogant bunch thinking that they are better than the rest of us. I have no desire to go visit the UK. I don’t feel welcome anymore.

My opinion about the US was similar. I have watched more American movies than all the movies from the rest of the world together. California with its beaches, Beach Boys lyrics, and palm trees seemed like an utterly desirable place. In the 80’s I got the chance to study at Stanford University. A few years later I worked for a period in San Francisco and got immersed in the Bay Area lifestyle. My admiration for California only grew. I liked the optimism, the cosmopolitan atmosphere, the lifestyle, the climate, the Lake Tahoe skiing, the Union Street bars, the Liberty Ale, the list is long. California was still the place of my dreams, only this time I wasn’t dreaming.

Enter “America First” Trump. He represents everything I loath: anti-intellectualism, narcissism, a myopic zero-sum worldview, bad manners, dishonesty, and now also attempted genocide of future generations by scorching the planet. I can hardly think of a person less competent to lead a nation. I was planning to again go to the Exponential Medicine conference organized by the Silicon Valley organization Singularity University (an other iconic California institution). As far as I understand, the immigration officers have under the Trump rules the right to ask for your Facebook password and to browse the contents of your computer and accounts. When entering a country I want to be welcomed as a guest, not treated as a suspect and be offended. I have cancelled my trip to San Diego this fall. I had also been planning a trip to a Dude Ranch in Wyoming for a week of western riding as riding is a big passion of mine. That’s not going to happen either, at least for the next 3+ years.

I am sad to learn that the majority of the people (well, technically at least) in these two countries, that I used to consider as some kinds of cultural second homes, voted to give the finger to the rest of us. The world became a worse place. I am utterly convinced that the isolationist mindset is detrimental to both countries and the rest of the world. Self-harm is unfortunately a human trait, whatever evolution meant with it.

I can only hope that the British and American people sooner or later come to their senses and realize that we are stronger and better together and that the world is not a zero sum game. I still read The Guardian, The Economist and plenty of newsletters from Silicon Valley (which for sure didn’t vote for Trump). I admire the US cities and states that pledged to step in when the federal government let us down. I’m also glad to see that the rest of Europe is filling in the vacuum, upholding the western values of liberal democracy and freedom now when Trump and May have abdicated from their moral obligations.

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