I’m writing this story in English, because that’s the language in which it was told to me when I was a kid back in the early eighties. The people who told it to me had names like Charlie Chaplin, Harrison Ford, Bill Cosby, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Isaac Asimov, Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne… Even people like Bruce Springsteen, Kurt Cobain and, well, Michael Knight.
These people told me a story about the importance of being true to yourself and standing up for the things that matter. A story about honesty. And bravery, even when you are afraid. Principles. Fair play. Not giving up. Did I mention telling the truth? Honor. And oh yeah, the color of your skin, how it doesn’t make you any less or more of a human being than anyone else.
And the thing is, these men and women, and many more that I didn’t mention, they told me about these things in a way that really made me listen. They were entertaining. They were funny. They were convincing. I bought the whole concept of the American Dream and how anything is possible if you believe in yourself and your dream, you know, all that stuff. I really swallowed it all; hook, line and sinker.
I was a kid of the late cold war. Things were kind of boring in Finland, where I was born and grew up. The music scene, the movies, the comics; most of the home-grown stuff was sort of lame. Almost all the cool stuff came from the USA or from Britain.
Of course, we never went there ourselves when I was a kid, my mom and me. She was a single parent, didn’t have a lot of money and airplane tickets cost an arm and a leg back then. I was in my late thirties when I went to the States for the first time.
But I didn’t really need to, anyway. After all, you guys came to me. You just needed to switch on the TV or put on a rock ‘n roll record. And you were taken there, instantly.
You even took me to the moon with the Apollo missions. Neil Armstrong, I saw his first step on another world. Not live, mind you, I missed that by a couple of months, I was born in late ‘69.
But the point here is, you made my childhood and youth fun and exciting, in a time that wasn’t a lot of fun in real life. To be honest, life was kind of frightening. The shadow of war hung over all of us. Any time now they were going to drop the Bomb. But as Billy Joel sang later,
“Cold war kids were hard to kill
Under their desks in an air raid drill”
We didn’t do the duck and cover-thing at school, though; we knew that when the bomb dropped we’d all be toast, instantly. We also knew that the one they’d drop on us would probably be one of yours.
But I still remained on your side. Because somehow I figured you were the good guys in the end, even though I didn’t really like Ronald Reagan very much, he was a bit scary, to be honest. But even he wasn’t able to kill my love for all – or most – things American.
Of course, as I grew older my view of the USA changed and became more pragmatic. I suppose I always knew that America had a dark side to it, after all, American film makers have never pretended that it didn’t exist.
In fact, I guess that’s one thing that I’ve always appreciated with the USA, your openness about your own flaws as a society. You never were like our next door neighbors, the Russians, who always straight up denied that anything was wrong, whatever it was and however wrong it was. You yankees, you were pretty much up front with the fact that not everything was OK, that there were cracks in the American dream. And I salute you for that.
And then, of course, you really did behave very badly at times. All your world policing and gunboat diplomacy; all your bombing, all your military muscle flexing around the world, of course that bothered me. You really tested my affection with the whole Gulf war thing, sort of the Vietnam of my generation. The first demonstration I ever took part in was a huge march against the Iraq war in Helsinki back in 2003.
And yes, I had huge problems with George W. Bush. Which is sort of really ironic, how I now almost miss him. I mean, the guy you just elected even makes Bush Jr. look good, and that takes some effort, let me tell you.
So anyway, here we are. You went and elected a full-blown fascist to your highest public office, didn’t you? A certified clinical psychopath and pathological liar as your president.
I’m not going to give you a hard time about it, most of you are painfully aware of this already, even some of those who voted for him, although they may not have realized the full consequences of their actions at the time.
I’m just going to tell you that I still am thankful for all the stuff I got from you, all the music, all the movies, the fun, the excitement, the stories. Nobody’s going to take that away from me.
My own kids, well, that’s another story. My older son is nine right now, my younger son is seven. Their most formative, impressionable years are going to overlap with the Trump presidency.
Honestly, what do you want me to tell them? What is the picture you want to paint for them? That it’s quite okay to be a total liar, an all-round bully, a racist, a raging misogynist and a venom-spewing hatemonger, among many other things?
I’m sorry, but I’m not making this up, they have it on tape, over and over again: Donald Trump really is all these things, and you just elected him. Out of more than 300 million people, he is the one you narrowed it down to? Seriously, America? How am I going to explain this to my kids?
I still love you guys on some level, but on another level I feel like I’ve been betrayed, big time. I feel like a dog that’s just been kicked – hard – by the person he’s been looking up to his entire short life.
A wise man once said, “with great power comes great responsibility”. You really need to step up to it now, America. I know you have it in you. You have to tell your leaders not to misbehave. You have to remind them of who you are as a nation, of its roots and of its soul.
You need to remind them that you are in fact a nation of immigrants. That America once was a safe haven for refugees and persecuted people who just wanted a chance to make a life for themselves and their families, and that they just happened to create the mightiest nation on Earth as a by-product.
A nation that, despite all it’s faults, never lost sight of its core values: truth, honesty, the fact that all men and women are born free and equal.
You need to remind yourselves of this now and in the coming years. You need to remember that the world is watching. My kids are watching. They’re great fans of the Marvel characters, by the way. Among them Captain America. Please don’t make them come to me and ask, “Daddy, why is Captain America behaving like that?” That would really break my heart.
The election may be over for this time, but for many of you, the hard work is just beginning. I sincerely hope that the prospect of an all-out authoritarian regime acts as a wake-up call for a great number of Americans and that we may see some kind of new grass roots movement, maybe some sort of new civil rights movement, a choir of voices that grows stronger by the day, a collective refusal to accept the coming madness.
Or am I wrong in believing in you? Are you in fact, after all, just another country among all the others, in the same league as those that you yourselves have called by derogatory terms like “banana republics”?
I still feel like you are not just another banana republic. I feel that there still is something there. Something special. But you’re really, really testing my convictions here. You’ve truly upset this old friend and fan of yours. And my kids, well, it’s up to you now, how they will look at you when they grow older. I’m begging you not to disappoint them.
But whatever happens, I will still play my old rock ‘n roll records to them. Springsteen, Michael Jackson, Metallica, Guns ‘n Roses. Hell, I’ll even play them some Eagles. Some things remain as true as ever, despite of what befalls the country that gave birth to them.