What will it take to rebuild Brand America?

On the eve of the 2020 U.S presidential election, it’s nigh impossible to predict who will come out victorious when the world begins to stir come Wednesday morning. The incumbent – an infantile narcissist of a man who’s built a rabid following off the back of polarizing rhetoric, is pitted against an experienced, yet somewhat uninspiring septuagenarian. Americans have never been more divided in opinion, nor have the stakes ever been higher. Yet the question on my mind is how much of a decline has Brand America endured in the last four years? And how will it rebuild its legacy?

From consumerism to music, literature and cinema, to world-renown universities and other celebrated institutions of free thinking, for years, Brand America has cleverly infiltrated the cultural mindset of every nation through soft diplomacy. The ideology of the American Dream has been a constant paradigm, reminding us all that irrespective of your ethnicity, education or socio-economic background, the land of the free is where everyone has equal opportunity to be or become a somebody. And we’ve been more than willing to lap it up.

For many of us who spent their formative years in developing countries, the possibility of moving to America was what dreams were made of. Whether through green card lotteries or the pursuit of university degrees, the lucky ones (who I count myself among), got to experience that pipe dream to varying degrees of satisfaction, largely determined by our own hopeful expectations. In the eyes of friends and family, the ‘privileged’ moniker didn’t even begin to cover it, yet the reality of American life was that it just wasn’t all that. After being influenced by decades of cultural imperialism, the harsh reality was this; I was disappointed by the homogeneous cultural mindset prevalent in your average American, hidden under the guise of supposed individualism. There’s still much about the U.S I admire, but my three-year run isn’t something I’m particularly keen to relive again anytime soon.

It would seem I’m not alone. From European university professors turning down tenure-track opportunities at prestigious Ivy League schools, to African musicians shunning the promise of stratospheric stardom, the axis of desirability has firmly shifted away from the American Dream. In a reverse exodus, American expats have discovered the virtues of universal healthcare, six weeks paid vacation and a quality of life comparable (read: better) to the best of what they’ve left behind. Tired of the incumbent Administration’s divisive political agenda, jingoistic hubris and inflammatory racial aggressions, socially mobile American expats have opted to vote with their feet, seeking greener pastures as part of a role reversal.

It’s hard to overlook the reputational hit Brand America has taken in the eyes of the world, and the many hallmarks of the Trump-era will require some mental distance before all is forgiven. Presuming there’s a new leader in the White House come January, the American Dream will require significant triage to take it beyond a cunning promise, and back into coveted lifestyle territory.

Only time will tell.

Image credit: Chris Riddell © courtesy of The Sunday Observer

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