George Hugh Railton was our American Field Service exchange student from New Zealand during my senior year in high school in Ontario, California. Our friendship left me with the knowledge that people are just about the same everywhere—along with a bunch of choice Maori swear words and how to do the Haka, the war chant used in place of cheers at Kiwi sports competitions.
As an adult, Hugh was a member of the IEEE and active in the field of radio frequency allocation, serving ultimately as a member on the International Radio Regulations Board. Here are some of his recent email observations about American politics:
“As a person who has spent a lot of time internationally I have to say the current situation worries me, as the huge progress the world has made over the past three decades—with of course the USA almost leading the charge in many cases—is still fragile and we could return very quickly to isolationism and protectionism. But these days no country is self-reliant. The US economy relies heavily on international trade, although less now. In the 1980s the US was about five percent of the world’s population and used a third of its resources. Today I think the figures are about 1/25 of the world’s population with much less consumption of resources—maybe below 10 percent. The huge Asian markets are burning stuff up at a higher rate than the US ever did. The lesson here seems to be that what worked in the past may not work now. We look forward with interest!
“My compliments on your excellent breast-beating on the need for a third party. https://vernonmileskerr.com/2016/08/14/rhetoric-the-polarization-of-america/ My concern is that it would provide a further opportunity for political buffoonery. Where I come from, we think that politicians, traffic cops and tax inspectors all come from under rocks that should not have been lifted in the first place!! Your heritage, like all nations, is mired in the passage of time. When it was set up it took days to get anywhere and even then one’s arrival was somewhat uncertain. Structures were set up to manage that, so that democracy would be done. With today’s travel and communications many of the processes are in need of updating but this is just not going to happen. The Electoral College for example was needed when States had to send their reps by horse or the like.
“My very partial cure would be to shorten the time frame to say, overall six months. Surely all that would bring a sense of clarity as well as urgency to the process; and the Media would have to find something else to do!! For example the die is cast, at this writing, for November but the population has to undergo a day-by-day circus for the next few months for little reason and no gain! With today’s media there would be very few people who do not know what the platforms are and could not make a choice by now. True, the two candidates would have to behave themselves for three months—which would probably be difficult for both of them.
“What a circus the whole thing is turning into. We are amazed at the antics with the Director of the FBI and others. Of course if was not so serious it would have made a good movie. We are all awaiting the outcome as I hope along with many others that Trump and a right wing Congress will not undo the good work that has been done in the past few years on the big mankind issues like global warming and trade. It seems from here that the US may be heading into isolation again with US industry being the driver and completely ignoring of the effects on the rest of the planet. Today however, the US is facing much more powerful opposition like China, the EU and Russia and is very heavily in debt. It is still the greatest power though and has a direct impact on all mankind hence the nervousness. At least the antics should be over next week.
“We have our national elections next year but there is little doubt that the existing team will get in as the opposition is lacking a charismatic leader. Such is politics.
“Good Luck for November! The Tuesday after the first Monday, if I remember right. Well, that’s about the extent of the Civics I can remember.”
It may come as a surprise to many Americans to learn how closely citizens of other nations follow our politics. Whether we like the responsibility or not, the sneezing of a virtual elephant or donkey in the U.S. can potentially cause an economic cyclone on the other side of the planet.