‘I believe the best patriot is a critical patriot’

| Rense Kuipers

Be it in fear, hope, excitement or indifference, the world holds its breath as we await the USA presidential election this Tuesday. Three American UT employees share their thoughts on the election, the political climate and the Dutch and American way of living. This second episode: Michael Marshall, assistant professor at the Department of Natural Resources (ITC faculty).

Michael Marshall.

Trump or Biden?

‘To be honest, I’ve never voted and I won’t be voting now. I consider myself to be pretty far-left and I’m really critical of both parties and candidates. To me, there’s not that big of a difference between Biden and Trump. I’m by no means a fan of Donald Trump. He’s a vocal bully and he’s obviously a racist and crypto-fascist pig. But Biden, in some ways, is even worse.

'No matter the outcome, things will be bad'

Biden has been in politics for decades and has been on the wrong side of history multiple times. Having been a Delaware senator, he’s proven to side with major financial corporations. In the 1970’s, he voted for the segregation of schools. He pushed the Crime Bill in the 90’s, causing the mass incarceration of black and brown people – a new way of slavery. With the marriage act, he was also on the wrong side of LGBTQ+ rights. Together with Barack Obama, they brought us from two to seven wars, they imprisoned whistleblowers and they set a record in deporting immigrants. Say about Trump what you will, but the cages for immigrants were there well before his time.

No, I won’t vote, also because my absentee vote won’t really be taken into account. No matter the outcome, things will be bad. I expect Biden to pull off a win. And a vote for him would still be marginally better than a vote for Trump.’

'These difficult times put pressure on universities that were once safe havens for free speech and open minds'

Proud or ashamed?

‘I’ll use this space to hold my own stump speech. I believe the best patriot is a critical patriot. And I’m really critical of the systems and institutions that are in place, that are only there to divide and polarize. The divisions and polarization accelerated with the introduction of Austrian economics, which made rich people even richer and poor people even poorer. A lot of people want to believe that started with Reagan, a Republican. But it actually started under Democrat Jimmy Carter. Ever since then, American politics has moved in a rather linear trajectory, ever more to the right. The root of evil is capitalism. It’s disheartening to see how the underlying systems and institutions are eating away at the integrity and sheer decency of people. Even possible heroes like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez end up disappointing because of the system they become more and more part of. Even academia in the US is being moulded into a certain commercial direction. These difficult times put pressure on universities that were once safe havens for free speech and open minds.

I think we need a grassroots movement of understanding. I miss the old patriotism. I remember seeing pictures of Victory over Japan Day. People celebrated the war victory with pride, but they were also humble. We used to have that sense of togetherness, but it’s now gone for the most part. We’re now waving flags and shouting at each other, while we need to put aside our differences and start understanding each other.’

'Until we look for consensus, we will not have solidarity, which is what we need to fight capitalism'

America first, Netherlands second?

‘I got this job offer on the day the Zondag met Lubach video appeared. I knew then and there: if there’s a place with this sense of humour, this is where I want to move. There are a lot of great things about living here compared to the US, especially the work-life balance. But I also see that the Netherlands isn’t immune to the movement towards right-wing populism, while this country used to be so left, open and welcoming. People on the right and left have things in common: love of personal freedom of thought and expression, family, et cetera. Until we look for consensus, we will not have solidarity, which is what we need to fight capitalism. It’s just that the system is designed to polarize. But I want to end on a positive note. Sure, I do love pointing out structural issues. I may sound cynical, but I’m also hopeful. Although things are getting worse, they will be better in the end. In the meantime, it’s also important to enjoy the little things in life. That’s why I love bitterballen to death.’