Tom Ritchford
3 min readSep 26, 2021


I loved the article, but it's still woefully incomplete because it misses the historical context.

I've lived in five countries, including thirty years in New York City, and spent considerable time in others.

For decades, Americans were seen by the rest of the world to be better people. We all admired America - your educational system, your dentistry, your roads and plumbing and consumer goods and regular good looks. The fact that many of you guys were ignorant bumpkins under it all was part of the charm, because we thought you were nice people.

Americans in your turn, you respected at least some of the rest of the world. You believed that French and Italian food and Danish design and German and later Japanese engineering and the rustic charm of the old world were intrinsically valuable.

And yes, we knew all about the bad parts, but we felt it was your unjust government, and the civil rights movement and then the anti-war movement were an inspiration for us all.

Then came Reagan and the image started to slip. There was a strain of wanton cruelty that had always been there but was now the sneer on the lips.

Over the decades, other nations delivered more public goods and services to their citizens, more effectively, while America, for some inexplicable reason, decided to go at their system of governance with a baseball bat.

Bustling industrial America became the Rust Belt. The rich became much richer and yet almost everyone blamed the poor for their problems, repeated over and over again over the generations.

There are plenty of black families in the United States who have been systematically fucked over by white America every single generation for four hundred years.

And maybe we, the rest of the world, could have overlooked this. But then we started to realize that a lot of you actually hated us.

It was already a strong suspicion before Freedom Fries.

For decades, the idea that the French were cowards and military incompetents had been spreading in America, an idea that's simply ludicrous to anyone who had cracked a history book, to the point that the Simpsons parodied it in 1996.

But in the twenty-first century, this xenophobia from some significant part of the American populace just boiled over. (The subreddit ShitAmericansSay is just full of this stuff, though I have to say, "An ambulance isn't your taxi to the hospital," is my favorite there.)

And the idea of American exceptionalism was by no means restricted to MAGAs. If you recall when the ACA was being constructed, the group tasked with coming up with a solution was explicitly prevented from investigating the systems used in other countries or using them as examples, as these were "not appropriate to the United States" or some similar BS. (Of course, they also prevented any discussion whatsoever of single payer, to the point of arresting noted doctors and nurses advocating for it, so the fix was in anyway.)

So at some point, the rest of us looked at each other and said, "Well, if you aren't even going to be polite, the romance is over."

And he we are. But you guys really did start it.