In his first novel, America (1927), Franz Kafka tells of a boy who was sent to America by his family because he seduced a maid. (It was later revealed that it was she - the gigantic, terrifying Kafkian man-eater - who seduced him.) At the port, the boy was met by a rich stranger - his uncle, who also turned out to be a senator. The captain of the ship on which the boy sailed to the States, said with envy: "Now you have a brilliant future!" Kakfka mocked the European dream of America, which infected his own family. His cousin Otto, who left for America without speaking a word of English, eventually started a company with the brilliant name of the Kafkaesian Export Company. Many Europeans grew up with the dream of America. The slow death of this dream changed the fantasy world of Europe, writes FT.
In 1980, when the author was 10 years old, his father went to Stanford for an internship. The whole family moved with him to California in Palo Alto for a whole year. Palo Alto was a beautiful campus during the pre-Google era, with enough university salaries for a large house on a central street.
One sunny morning, when they first moved, the teenager watched as the whole house was loaded onto a huge truck, which was supposed to transport him to where it is better. Then he thought that this is America: if something went wrong, you can always fix it.
Even the hardest anti-Americans wanted to go to America. Writer P.J. O'Rourke recalled that when he was detained at a checkpoint in Lebanon by a young guy from Hezbollah, he shouted curses at America, called it "the land of Satan", and so on. When he finished his regular repertoire, he confessed to the writer that his biggest dream was to study to be a dentist at Dearborn, Michigan.
In 1993, while studying at the university, the author again came to America to study for a year. At a party he met a British man whose London accent betrayed his working heritage. As it turned out, he found his happiness in Boston, in a city where no one cared what class he belonged to. The USA was a place where Europeans could start a new life. The journalist had already started submitting his resume for various jobs, but then the Financial Times' offer arrived. He returned home, but thought that America would not run away from him.
In 2004 he married an American woman. His wife had many positive qualities, but part of his love for her was also love for her homeland. Every time they came to visit, her grandfather greeted them with the same words: "Welcome to America!", As if he personally represented his country.
At first, he and his wife decided that they would eventually live in her homeland. When the opportunity turned up, she even made him get a green card. Gradually, the talk of moving came to naught. The American Dream was losing its appeal. In 2009, in Palestine, the author met a Palestinian who, ironically, was sending money to a relative in California who had gone bankrupt during the crisis.
Today, the average income of an American family is the same as it was in 1980 when they lived in Palo Alto. American friends are busy looking for money for health care, to pay off student loans, to study their children in universities and worry about their future retirement. They resemble the boy in Kafka's novel who worked during the day and studied in the evening. When asked when he sleeps, he replied: “I will sleep when I finish my studies. In the meantime, I drink strong coffee. "
Europeans used to envy Americans, now they sympathize with them. This spring, the Irish raised several million dollars in donations to help the Choctaw Indians hard hit by the coronavirus. This gift was the answer: in 1847, the Indians sent money to the Irish, who were dying during the "potato famine".
One could argue that the people living in the old house in Palo Alto (worth, by the way, $ 5.4 million) are wealthier than he could have imagined, and they work for the firms that define our lives. It's true, but if someone decides to become a billionaire, they should go to Norway, not the States. In addition, northern Europeans have become more socially mobile. And one more circumstance - if you remember, wildfires in California turned the sky in Palo Alto orange.
Today's states are reminiscent of Argentina. When the journalist was in Buenos Aires in 2002 and interviewed ex-Italians, Spaniards, British and Poles during another crisis, he then thought that their ancestors had chosen the wrong country. They had to immigrate to the States.
But the Argentine historian said that at that time people made the right choice. They just didn’t know that the most valuable thing they would have was European birth certificates. In 2002, their grandchildren will be queuing up for European passports at the Spanish and Italian consulates.
It's the same with Scandinavian farmers who moved to the Midwest - then they did it right. But their relatives, who remained at home, now live much better. And Donald Trump now wants immigrants not from "shitty" countries, but from Norway. But why would Norwegians move to America if they are not volunteers helping poor people. Most likely, today's Americans with Scandinavian, German and Irish roots are looking for birth certificates of their deceased grandfathers and great-grandfathers.