Some of the American mystique has gone, even if the raw power remains. That is what makes the scenes in Washington more than simply pathetic—but important too.
What a tawdry coup attempt. What a fitting end to a presidency.
This was not shocking in the same way as attempted and successful coups elsewhere—Egypt in 2013, Thailand in 2014, Turkey in 2016—which were serious, planned, meticulous. This, it seemed from afar at least, was an orgy of anger whipped up by a deluded and bitter man. It was closer to one of those videos you sometimes get sent of a fight breaking out in the chamber of some obscure Parliament, the subplot always being: Look at this crazy place.
We in the rest of the world are used to watching blockbuster films and box sets depicting the awesome power of the American empire, its leaders and agents wrestling with their consciences but never forgetting that they had them. We gorge on series of24, or go to the cinema to watch Independence Day or Zero Dark Thirty. This is the United States supreme and righteous—sometimes a knight in shining armor, at other times a dark one, forced to be the baddie, because the rest of us will not: “The hero Gotham deserves … a silent guardian, a watchful protector.” That kind of thing.
This America, for all its flaws, is usually somehow inherently good—and always powerful.