What People Around the World Think of America Since Trump's Baffling Rise
Americans are no strangers to embarrassing exports (sorry for "Grey’s Anatomy" and Papa John’s pizza, Planet Earth). And our political nutbaggery is no exception. But when it comes to Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, we may have outdone ourselves. The GOP frontrunner is a woman-hating reality TV star whose campaign has mostly focused on his lust for ethnic cleansing.
When it comes to Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, we may have outdone ourselves. Photo credit: Shutterstock
The global reaction to Trump mania has been a sense of disgust; Trump is the native son of a country that worships selfishness above empathy, corporate interests over justice and notoriety over prestige. As French author Marie-Cecile Naves put it to Politico, “Trump represents the America we love to hate … He is our negative mirror image, a man we see as brutal, who worships money and lacks culture—someone who lets us feel a bit superior about being European."
In short, the rest of the world seems as flabbergasted about Trump’s rise as we should be. Here’s how seven other countries have reacted to his befuddling popularity.
Mexicans have a special right to resent Trump, given his well-documented disdain for them. He’s pushed blackmailing Mexico into paying for a border fence, called undocumented Latinos “rapists” who are “bringing drugs and crime” and even vowed to implement a mass deportation of millions of undocumented people and their American children. One July issue of Mexican comic book El Peso Hero featured its hero slugging Donald Trump in the mug on its cover, just as Captain America once socked Hitler. Not to be outdone, Mexican artist Dalton Javier Avalos Ramirez designed a special Donald Trump piñata so people can fulfill their dreams of bashing Trump with a stick.
France’s Liberation Newspaper didn’t go for subtlety in its Aug. 27 cover story, “Trump: The American Nightmare.” Text that ran alongside his pink grimace declared him to be “vulgar and opportunistic.” Resentment against Trump has long been brewing in the land of brie and berets: back in January, he sparked widespread outrage when he blamed the Charlie Hebdo murders on strict gun laws. (Say quoi?!) More recently, Trump’s nationalism and tendency to make outrageous comments in the media led a columnist at Le Figaro to dub him the American Le Pen, a comparison to Jean-Marie Le Pen, the notorious patriarch of France’s far-right. Le Pen could also give Trump a master class on how to alienate practically everyone with reactionary bullshit: over the past year, Le Pen has gone off the deep end by denying the Holocaust and singing the praises of Nazi-collaborationist Vichy government occupiers who deported thousands of Jews during WWII.
The Latin American country has come under fire for draconian anti-trafficking policies that critics say amount to abuses of Colombians, including sealing their shared borders and deportations. Some observers couldn't help but notice that President Nicolas Maduro’s vicious anti-immigration policies are awfully similar to the vitriol that’s been spewing from the Donald. Opposition politician Saverio Vivas thinks the shoe fits: “Maduro criticizes Donald Trump, but his acts against Colombian immigration are worse than the magnate's words." But Maduro takes issue with the comparison. As he said during an August TV spot, “They’re saying Maduro is like Donald Trump. Imagine! I don't even have his hairstyle and least of all his bank account.” Um, fair enough, but nothing says “unpopular” quite like being more offensive than human rights violators.
Trump has made no secret of his distaste for China. He’s grumbled about how America keeps losing to China, in contrast with Trump’s record of “always beating [them].” He claimed the Chinese are “ripping us off left and right” and their diplomats ought to be taken to McDonald’s instead of to state dinners. As the Washington Post reports, the Chinese are beginning to snark back. Besides mocking Trump’s hair (“This guy’s hair is so strange. I thought it was photoshopped at first,” one Chinese national quipped on social media) the Chinese have become increasingly critical of Trump’s flaunting of his wealth. One state newspaper put it this way: “The theme of Trump’s speech for running for president: I really am very rich.” Spokespeople for the Chinese government have been dismissive, rebutting his claims that Chinese policies swipe jobs and saying that they care more about the opinions of those who actually matter.
Much has been made of the fact that Trump’s anti-immigrant rabble-rousing discounts his own family history. Not only did Trump descend from immigrants, he also married two of them. (His first spouse Ivana was born in the Czech Republic and he is currently married to Melania, from Slovenia.) But less is said of the fact that his Grandpa Drumpf, after building up a nest egg, actually tried to move back to his native Germany and was denied. As Deutsche Welle reports, Drumpf’s propensity for self-serving corner-cutting seems to have resulted in a grandson bent on erecting 100-story golden calves into the skyline of any city whose legal limits he can push. It’s exactly that flamboyance that fuels German distaste for “The Trump Show,” as his soundbite-optimized campaign was called by the tabloid Bild. A few weeks after Trump announced his candidacy, Suddeutsche Zeitung was feeling lost: “Weird, egomaniac, racist … yet he leads in the polls; how can that be?” the paper asked. Wunderbar question.
Given the fact that Trump’s venom has spared practically no one, it’s notable that he’s been less critical of Russia and President Vladimir Putin than practically any other global politician. (“I was over in Moscow two years ago and I will tell you—you can get along with those people … you can make deals with those people. Obama can’t,” he recently explained.) Trump has tacitly sided with Russia in the Ukraine conflict, having affirmed his indifference over whether or not Ukraine enters NATO and landing on an "enemies list" in Ukraine for his pro-Russia comments in the press. Pro-Russian publication Russia Insider even recently suggested a Trump presidency could be good for Russia, since Trump will negotiate based on pragmatics instead of emotion or ideology. The Kremlin-friendly pub also praised the fact that Trump “harbors none of the ridiculous and hysterical Russophobia, which of course is a hallmark of every other Republican candidate.”
Down under, some people have a cynical, sarcastic reason to root for Trump: it distracts the planet from the awfulness of their own recently deposed prime minister, Tony Abbott. As one bloke put it to the Unaustralian,“Trump would take the heat off Abbott so no Australian ever needs to pretend to be a New Zealander ever again.” Another claimed electing Trump “would be so embarrassing for America, they’d all be like ‘ugh, we elected this guy? Awkward.'" Fair enough. But why were Aussies so disgruntled at Abbott, anyway? Sydney Morning Herald columnist Julie Szego wrote that both represent ugly aspects of conservative values, particularly a high-profile disrespect of women. Trump’s center-stage battle against Megyn Kelly at the first Republican debate caused decent human beings to recoil in horror, as they do toward what Szego called Abbott’s “inability to self-censor his natural tendency to link women with domesticity.”
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The Biden-Harris transition team identified COVID-19, economic recovery, racial equity and climate change as its top priorities. Rivers are the through-line linking all of them. The fact is, healthy rivers can no longer be separated into the "nice-to-have" column of environmental progress. Rivers and streams provide more than 60 percent of our drinking water — and a clear path toward public health, a strong economy, a more just society and greater resilience to the impacts of the climate crisis.
Public Health<img lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTUyNDY3MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MDkxMTkwNn0.pyP14Bg1WvcUvF_xUGgYVu8PS7Lu49Huzc3PXGvATi4/img.jpg?width=980" id="8e577" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1efb3445f5c445e47d5937a72343c012" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="3000" data-height="2302" />
Wild and Scenic Merced River, California. Bob Wick / BLM<p>Let's begin with COVID-19. More than <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html?name=styln-coronavirus&region=TOP_BANNER&block=storyline_menu_recirc&action=click&pgtype=LegacyCollection&impression_id=2f508610-2a87-11eb-8622-4f6c038cbd1d&variant=1_Show" target="_blank">16 million Americans</a> have contracted the coronavirus and, tragically,<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html?name=styln-coronavirus&region=TOP_BANNER&block=storyline_menu_recirc&action=click&pgtype=LegacyCollection&impression_id=2f508610-2a87-11eb-8622-4f6c038cbd1d&variant=1_Show" target="_blank"> more than</a> <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html?name=styln-coronavirus&region=TOP_BANNER&block=storyline_menu_recirc&action=click&pgtype=LegacyCollection&impression_id=2f508610-2a87-11eb-8622-4f6c038cbd1d&variant=1_Show" target="_blank">300,000 have died</a> due to the pandemic. While health officials encourage hand-washing to contain the pandemic, at least <a href="https://closethewatergap.org/" target="_blank">2 million Americans</a> are currently living without running water, indoor plumbing or wastewater treatment. Meanwhile, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jun/23/millions-of-americans-cant-afford-water-bills-rise" target="_blank">aging water infrastructure is growing increasingly costly for utilities to maintain</a>. That cost is passed along to consumers. The upshot? <a href="https://research.msu.edu/affordable-water-in-us-reaching-a-crisis/" target="_blank">More than 13 million</a> U.S. households regularly face unaffordable water bills — and, thus, the threat of water shutoffs. Without basic access to clean water, families and entire communities are at a higher risk of <a href="https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/green/news/2020/08/05/488705/bridging-water-access-gap-covid-19-relief/" target="_blank">contracting</a> and spreading COVID-19.</p><p>We have a moral duty to ensure that everyone has access to clean water to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Last spring, <a href="https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/03/coronavirus-stimulus-bill-explained-bailouts-unemployment-benefits.html" target="_blank">Congress appropriated more than $4 trillion</a> to jumpstart the economy and bring millions of unemployed Americans back to work. Additional federal assistance — desperately needed — will present a historic opportunity to improve our crumbling infrastructure, which has been <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jun/23/millions-of-americans-cant-afford-water-bills-rise" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">grossly underfunded for decades</a>.</p><p>A report by my organization, American Rivers, suggests that <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/american-rivers-website/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/09223525/ECONOMIC-ENGINES-Report-2020.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Congress must invest at least $50 billion</a> "to address the urgent water infrastructure needs associated with COVID-19," including the rising cost of water. This initial boost would allow for the replacement and maintenance of sewers, stormwater infrastructure and water supply facilities.</p>
Economic Recovery<p>Investing in water infrastructure and healthy rivers also creates jobs. Consider, for example, that <a href="https://tinyurl.com/y9p6sgnk" target="_blank">every $1 million spent on water infrastructure in the United States generates more than 15 jobs</a> throughout the economy, according to a report by the Value of Water Campaign. Similarly, <a href="https://tinyurl.com/yyvd2ksp" target="_blank">every "$1 million invested in forest and watershed restoration contracting will generate between 15.7 and 23.8 jobs,</a> depending on the work type," states a working paper released by the Ecosystem Workforce Program, University of Oregon. Healthy rivers also spur tourism and recreation, which many communities rely on for their livelihoods. According to the findings by the Outdoor Industry Association, which have been shared in our report, "Americans participating in watersports and fishing spend over <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/american-rivers-website/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/30222425/Exec-summary-ECONOMIC-ENGINES-Report-June-30-2020.pdf" target="_blank">$174 billion</a> on gear and trip related expenses. And, the outdoor watersports and fishing economy supports over <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/american-rivers-website/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/30222425/Exec-summary-ECONOMIC-ENGINES-Report-June-30-2020.pdf" target="_blank">1.5 million jobs nationwide</a>."</p><p>After the 2008 financial crisis, Congress invested in infrastructure to put Americans back to work. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act <a href="https://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/economy-a-budget/25941-clean-water-green-infrastructure-get-major-boost" target="_blank">of 2009 (ARRA) allocated $6 billion</a> for clean water and drinking water infrastructure to decrease unemployment and boost the economy. More specifically, <a href="https://www.conservationnw.org/news-updates/us-reps-push-for-millions-of-restoration-and-resilience-jobs/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an analysis of ARRA</a> "showed conservation investments generated 15 to 33 jobs per million dollars," and more than doubled the rate of return, according to a letter written in May 2020 by 79 members of Congress, seeking greater funding for restoration and resilience jobs.</p><p>Today, when considering how to create work for the <a href="https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">10.7 million</a> people who are currently unemployed, Congress should review previous stimulus investments and build on their successes by embracing major investments in water infrastructure and watershed restoration.</p>
Racial Justice<p>American Rivers also recommends that Congress dedicate <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/american-rivers-website/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/09223525/ECONOMIC-ENGINES-Report-2020.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">$500 billion for rivers and clean water over the next 10 years</a> — not just for the benefit of our environment and economy, but also to begin to address the United States' history of deeply entrenched racial injustice.</p><p>The <a href="https://www.epa.gov/npdes/sanitary-sewer-overflows-ssos" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">23,000-75,000 sewer overflows</a> that occur each year release up to <a href="https://www.americanrivers.org/2020/05/fighting-for-rivers-means-fighting-for-justice/#:~:text=There%20are%20also%2023%2C000%20to%2075%2C000%20sanitary%20sewer,to%20do%20with%20the%20mission%20of%20American%20Rivers." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">10 billion gallons of toxic sewage</a> <em>every day</em> into rivers and streams. This disproportionately impacts communities of color, because, for generations, Black, Indigenous, Latinx and other people of color have been <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/flooding-disproportionately-harms-black-neighborhoods/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">relegated</a> to live in flood-prone areas and in neighborhoods that have been intentionally burdened with a lack of development that degrades people's health and quality of life. In some communities of color, incessant flooding due to stormwater surges or <a href="https://www.ajc.com/opinion/opinion-partnering-to-better-manage-our-water/7WQ6SEAQP5E4LGQCEYY5DO334Y/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">combined sewer overflows</a> has gone unmitigated for decades.</p><p>We have historically treated people as separate from rivers and water. We can't do that anymore. Every voice — particularly those of people most directly impacted — must have a loudspeaker and be included in decision-making at the highest levels.</p><p>Accordingly, the new administration must diligently invest in projects at the community level that will improve lives in our country's most marginalized communities. We also must go further to ensure that local leaders have a seat at the decision-making table. To this end, the Biden-Harris administration should restore <a href="https://www.epa.gov/cwa-401#:~:text=Section%20401%20Certification%20The%20Clean%20Water%20Act%20%28CWA%29,the%20United%20States.%20Learn%20more%20about%20401%20certification." target="_blank">Section 401 of the Clean Water Act</a>, which was undermined by the <a href="https://earthjustice.org/news/press/2020/tribes-and-environmental-groups-sue-trump-administration-to-preserve-clean-water-protections#:~:text=Under%20Section%20401%20of%20the%20Clean%20Water%20Act%2C,seeks%20to%20undermine%20that%20authority%20in%20several%20ways%3A" target="_blank">Trump administration's 2020 regulatory changes</a>. This provision gives states and tribes the authority to decide whether major development projects, such as hydropower and oil and gas projects, move forward.</p>
Climate Resilience<p>Of course, the menacing shadow looming over it all? Climate change. <a href="https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/IFRC_wdr2020/IFRC_WDR_ExecutiveSummary_EN_Web.pdf" target="_blank">More than 100 climate-related catastrophes</a> have pummeled the Earth since the pandemic was declared last spring, including the blitzkrieg of megafires, superstorms and heat waves witnessed during the summer of 2020, directly impacting the lives of more than <a href="https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/IFRC_wdr2020/IFRC_WDR_ExecutiveSummary_EN_Web.pdf" target="_blank">50 million people globally</a>.</p><p>Water and climate scientist Brad Udall often says, "<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQhpj5G0dME" target="_blank">Climate change is water change</a>." In other words, the most obvious and dire impacts of climate change are evidenced in profound changes to our rivers and water resources. You've likely seen it where you live: Floods are more damaging and frequent. Droughts are deeper and longer. Uncertainty is destabilizing industry and lives.</p><p>By galvanizing action for healthy rivers and managing our water resources more effectively, we can insure future generations against the consequences of climate change. First, we must safeguard rivers that are still healthy and free-flowing. Second, we must protect land and property against the ravages of flooding. And finally, we must promote policies and practical solutions that take the science of climate disruption into account when planning for increased flooding, water shortage and habitat disruption.</p><p>Imagine all that rivers do for us. Most of our towns and cities have a river running through them or flowing nearby. Rivers provide clean drinking water, irrigate crops that provide our food, power our homes and businesses, provide wildlife habitat, and are the lifeblood of the places where we enjoy and explore nature, and where we play and nourish our spirits. Healthy watersheds help <a href="https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/03/1059952" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mitigate</a> climate change, absorbing and reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Healthy rivers and floodplains help communities adapt and build resilience in the face of climate change by improving flood protection and providing water supply and quality benefits. Rivers are the cornerstones of healthy, strong communities.</p><p>The more than <a href="https://archive.epa.gov/water/archive/web/html/index-17.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">3 million miles</a> of rivers and streams running across our country are a source of great strength and opportunity. When we invest in healthy rivers and clean water, we can improve our lives. When we invest in rivers, we create jobs and strengthen our economy. When we invest in rivers, we invest in our shared future.</p>
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