The world is looking at us

By WILSON RICCARDO

On a recent morning while driving to work, I heard a voice on the radio espousing a familiar theme. It was Donald Trump saying that a Trump victory for U.S. president would be like Brexit, but to a factor of five.

As I rolled down the Island Road toward Jersey Shore, I began analyzing his statement.

For those readers who are not aware, Brexit refers to the vote by British citizens to leave the European Union.

That vote may seem opaque to many Americans because we generally lack an understanding of how the European Union works; it is not a “United States of Europe,” despite some of the best efforts by many European politicians.

Rather, it is a commitment to collaboration among European nations to work together for mutual peace, prosperity, and security.

It should be noted that the European Union as it looks today is a very different animal than the beast that came into existence in the new dawn after World War II.

Originally, what became the European Union was called the European Coal & Steel Community, formed to share resources during the reconstruction of Europe, and consisted only of Italy, France, West Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.

The leaders of these countries saw that international collaboration provided a better future for all involved parties than did competition among them. Furthermore, these nations realized that such competition caused not one, but two World Wars.

As the European Coal & Steel Community grew, the interests of its members expanded beyond the simple sharing of industrial resources, and the institution morphed into the European Community, which allowed for the free movement of goods, capital, and people across internal European borders.

As a result of the prosperity that this brought to its member nations, membership in the European Community, and after 1992, the European Union, swelled from the original six members to the 27 members it has today, including the United Kingdom’s own entry in 1972.

Fast forward to today and the free movement of people has grabbed the attention due to the refugee crisis and the lack of response on the part of more developed nations, while the benefits, such as the lack of penalties on international cash transfers or no tariffs on imported goods, often go unnoticed or unappreciated.

It goes without saying that the European Union’s bureaucratic machine has brought political, economic and personal challenges to its members, but if one were to compare the quality of life and economic growth in Europe before EU and after, the results would be shocking.

But largely as a response to thousands of refugees fleeing to Europe from the war-torn Middle East, the British voted to leave the EU this past June 23.

Brexit is meant to curtail the flow into Britain of people seeking to better their lives, but in the process the British chose to sacrifice the freedom to travel to other European countries without a passport, the freedom to spend money in other countries without being excessively taxed, the freedom to be treated in hospitals in other countries using their own insurance, and the ability to import products from other countries, such as German cars, without any penalties.

The Brexit vote garned a narrow 51-49 percent victory largely under the false promises of its leaders, who, upon their ascension to power, conceded that much of what they promised was either unobtainable or outright false, despite the fact that experts across the world warned exactly that.

The historic consequences of this vote cannot be understated, and the social and economic damage the vote has caused has not even begun to show itself.

By voting to turn its back on the rest of Europe, Britain has secured itself a much more difficult future than if it had elected to help manage — rather than ignore — the rising tide of globalization.

Donald Trump’s “Brexit times five” is an understatement.

Britian’s influence in Europe  and in world affairs likely will diminish.

Conversely, the United States serves as the point of reference for any international political discussion.

Regardless of the political issue, the United States always figures into the conversation in some way, because, for better or worse, the America determines world policy, period.

The world is stronger and safer through international collaboration, and America is stronger when it keeps its finger on the pulse of world affairs.

But a Trump victory would be like a Brexit times 500.

Donald Trump plans to renegotiate the United States’ position in the world as it pertains to military defense, political diplomacy, international trade, and immigration, all the while wanting to “Make America great again.”

Much of the world has called upon America for help, like a child asks a father.

And like many children who go on to start their own adult lives, many countries still look to America for such things as security, and we certainly live in troubled times.

America is demanding more from its allies — as it should.

Will that change under a Trump administration after Nov. 8?

Americans have the choice to further define the role of the United States in the world.

We can either turn our backs on the rest of the world, or we can renew our engagement in new and dynamic ways … all aimed to achieving peace, not building walls and barring immigrants.

We can choose to believe that the treatment we receive at the hands of other countries in trade and defense deals is “horrible,” or we can remember that, for our entire history, the rest of the world has looked to us as a symbol for what people can accomplish with their own self-determination.

The rest of the world is looking at us.

(Author’s note: After theBrexit vote passed with just 52 percent approval and voters were informed of the consequences, between 7 and 10 percent of those who voted “yes” wanted to change their vote.)

Wilson Riccardo is a freelance writer based in Lock Haven and attended school in Italy. Email him at wilsonriccardo@gmail.com.

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