008 | Wade Davis | The end of the American century

Isabelle Roughol
Isabelle Roughol

“Covid-19 revealed the tatters of the American image,” Canadian anthropologist, author and National Geographic explorer Wade Davis wrote in a blockbuster essay this summer. "The unraveling of America" hit a raw nerve. He joins Borderline to discuss the grandeur and decadence of the United States, and what comes next if America is no longer a superpower.

Music by Dyalla.


Transcripts are published for your convenience, but they are automated and not always cleaned up. Please excuses typos and occasional nonsense, and always check the audio before quoting.

Isabelle Roughol: [00:00:00] hey, it's Isabelle.

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et started, a quick reminder that you can do a lot to help get the word out and grow the borderline community. Yes. I've become that person. If you do only one thing, it should be to please share this podcast with someone, just one person. Grab your phone right now and send the pod to a global citizen that you know, or even to a nationalist that you're hoping to turn.

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[00:00:33] Wade Davis: [00:00:33] That cult of the individual, uh, which allows for the American dream, um, doesn't do so well when, when the collective society is facing a crisis.

[00:00:43]  Isabelle Roughol: [00:00:48] hi, I'm Isabelle Roughol and this is Borderline.

[00:00:52] About a third of you, dear listeners, are American. And so this episode might be a little hard for you. Rest assured, it's hard for me too, and we're in this together. You'd be hard pressed to find someone without that navy blue passport, who knows and loves the United States more. Half the people I meet think I'm American. And yet, I couldn't tell you exactly when, I figured I'd probably never live there again. Something broke, and the easy answer would be to say it's the current politics, but it runs much deeper.

[00:01:23] I'd been wrestling with it when I came across someone who beautifully expressed this thing I'd been feeling, and that's Canadian anthropologist Wade Davis, a man I'd describe as part Indiana Jones, part Dumbledore. You'll get his impressive CV in a minute. This summer he wrote an essay for Rolling Stone magazine you may have read, it made the rounds. He wrote about the unraveling of America, what the COVID-19 crisis revealed of what's become of the country. So we discussed that and what the whole world can expect if indeed this is the end of the American century.

[00:01:54] I'm mindful of what it must sound like to have a French woman and a Canadian man, sit here and give a rather rough appraisal of your country. So bear in mind that Wade does also have that blue passport and me well, it lives in my soul a little bit. Let's talk to Wade Davis.


[00:02:11] good morning.

[00:02:13] Wade Davis: [00:02:13] Good morning.

[00:02:14]So today on the podcast we have Wade Davis, renowned anthropologist, author of many books, professor at the university of British Columbia, and a National Geographic explorer, that's quite a CV.  And actually, I think that's where I want to start. I'm curious. So you wrote this essay that was an instant hit the summer, The Unraveling of America, and that's a bit of a departure from, from your usual topics. You write a lot about rivers and about indigenous cultures. So what kind of prompted you to explore this?

[00:02:45] Wade Davis: [00:02:45] Well, actually, you know, I have to say Isabelle, I've written 23 books. And I think every single reviewer has always said of the latest book, "this is quite a departure for Wade Davis." And I'm a storyteller and I write about what intrigues me.

[00:02:58]The genesis of this article was as quirky and as serendipitous as all, everything I do and everything most creative people do. You know, um, I had a book coming out in, in the spring before COVID hit called Magdalena river of dreams which is kind of a biography almost a love letter to Columbia And I was all set up for you know, a massive tour and launching it in London and America and Canada, I was going to be in seven countries, 30 or 40 presentations all scheduled. And of course, like everybody else's life, it went to the carwash. Um, It turns out one of the only ways authors have really, to, to get news out about a new book is to write essays. And so I've been writing sort of essays that have sort of nothing to do with the book, but get the byline of the book into, into circulation and on the advice of the publishers. And that that's part of the genesis of this.

[00:03:45] um, uh, I've been asked to write about COVID since almost the beginning of the, of the crisis. And,  it is true that everything I write is through a kind of a lens, an anthropological lens, if you will. And I, I hesitated to write about COVID, uh, I didn't feel I had anything new to say. And, uh, one day I was out kayaking around our little Island here and I, I sort of came to shore and saw a great friend of mine, a physician, a wonderful woman, a brilliant doctor. And I sort of blurted out to Trish. I said, you know, Trish, this isn't a story of medicine. It's not a story of morbidity and mortality. It's a story of culture.

[00:04:23] And I went home that night and I, I wrote this long piece and, um, I sent it to an old friend of mine, Jann Wenner who founded Rolling Stone and Jann really liked it and sent it to his son Gus who now runs the, the empire, if you will. And, um, I ran into the hands of the incredibly brilliant young editor We honed it down and focused and shortened it and it came out and I had no expectation I wasn't paid for it I just did it on You know on speck and, uh, suddenly it just hit a nerve to the extent that the story in a way has become a story. You know, it's now in its fifth week trending on the top two or three slots on their entire website it has been read by 5 million people at the Rolling Stone site.  Um, Worldwide it's had 332 million social media impressions.

[00:05:10] And it's naturally sort of prompted a, a tsunami of, of, uh, of, uh, comments and the emails to me. Uh, And they tend to come into two categories: you know, one are those sympathetic to the fundamental ideas of the piece of form They just it's just very sad tale of potential demise of America. And of course the other side launched into a kind of bizarrely vitriolic and vicious and violent condemnation, not of the arguments, but rather of the person who wrote the article, which is sort of par for the course. And it's been curious that the negative, um, truly hateful uh,  emails that have come in or have been posted on various websites really  are  you singularly inarticulate and largely dominated by profanities, um, all of which find a way to be uh, either racist or a misogynist. You know, I've been called things like, you know, pejoratively I can tell you, um, menstrual discharge, and I didn't even know that was a pejorative.

[00:06:12] Isabelle Roughol: [00:06:12] That's a new one even to me.

[00:06:14] Wade Davis: [00:06:14] Uh, and, and, uh,  accused of, you know, hanging out with wimpy, pathetic white, liberal women . So it speaks to something that's going on there.

[00:06:22] And in fact, the article is not all anti-American, it's more like a love letter.  When we have a family member uh, in trouble, the first step of the intervention is to hold the mirror to their face and show them how far they've, how far they've fallen. And that realization is always the first step on the path of potential rehabilitation and regeneration.

[00:06:48] And, you know, it struck me that um, COVID was, was you know, fundamentally um, Aastory about what had become of America. The disease was revealing graphically that the idea of American exceptionalism lay in tatters. And it had laid in tatters for a long time before COVID.

[00:07:07]Pandemics always, or epidemics always have a way of, of, uh, moving the wheel of history, uh, in different ways. I mean the Black Death, obviously, uh, in killing half of Europe's population uh, in the 14th century, um, um,  u brought down the medieval order that had been in place for a thousand years. By contrast  the Spanish flu didn't have this systemic impact because it happened in the wake of the great war and the whole world was kind of numbed by death Similarly in the summer of Woodstock if you can believe that we'll half a million kids took drugs and swam around in the mud of that farmer's field the Hong Kong flu killed a hundred thousand people And in Berlin they were storing corpses in subway stations for lack of room in the morgues But again we didn't have global media We didn't have digital access communication, and we weren't all flying around the world; in the 1960s, most people in Europe or in Canada or United States had never been in an airplane, you know.

[00:08:03] What COVID did is sort of you know, unveiled  the tatters of the American image. I mean, Americans woke up to realize that they're actually living in a failed state, led by a dysfunctional government, uh, at the head of whichwas an individual who was literally recommending the use of bathroom disinfectants to treat a disease that he intellectually could not begin to understand.

[00:08:26] When you think of the healthcare workers, you know, waiting for emergency supplies of fundamental material from swabs to masks to arrive from  China the hinge of history opened to the Asian uh, century.

[00:08:41] As an Irish times correspondent said it so well, America's invoked all kinds of emotions over the years: good and bad, loving and hateful uh, but never, never the sentiment of pity. And suddenly the world was looking at America as a failed state.

[00:09:00] The truth is that empires um, are born to die. Kingdoms are born to die. The 15th century belonged to the Portuguese, the 16th to the Spanish, the 17th to the Dutch, the 18th to the French, the 19th, of course, to the British.

[00:09:14] And, you know, the British empire reached its greatest geographical extent as late as 1935, no Brits and all the colonies were swirling their gin and tonics in the setting sun. But we now know of course that the empire was gone, bled white, bankrupt by the great war and the torch should pass to America.

[00:09:35] And again, the way to ask what's become of America is to look at  what it once was. in the Eve of world war two, America was a demilitarized society. uh, Portugal and Bulgaria had larger armies And yet within three years the Americans had 18 million men and women serving in uniform The nation's industrial might once harnessed to the cause of the liberation of Europe and the world um,  literally saved civilization -- that together with Russian blood. uh, The Ford motor company produced more industrial output than the nation of Italy. For every four pounds of equipment the Japanese got to a soldier, America got two tons. Uh, Liberty ships were spat out by the hour. The record for building a Liberty ship was four days, 29 hours  and 17 minutes.   Industrial output was so extraordinary um, that we were able to, without thinking, send half a million Dodge trucks to the Russians half-a-million radio sets the troops that marched into Berlin from Russia, from the East, uh, did so on boots in many cases made in America. And so in the wake of the war with Europe in ashes, Japan prostrate, uh, America with but 4% of the world's population controled 50% of the world's economy, uh, made 90% of the world's cars.

[00:11:00] And that incredible concentration of wealth allowed for a truce between labor and capital that gave us the weekend, gave us a working middle-class. An era in which uh, an individual -- then a man for the most part -- could support a family on his own, uh, buy a house, buy a car, send his kids to good schools. And that became kind of the, the idea of America.

[00:11:23] Now the truth is when we look back in the 1950s, America was no perfect place by any means, um, but the economy really resembled Denmark as it does the America of today. I mean, marginal tax rates were 90%. That doesn't mean that the wealthy paid 90%, but at least a symbol of, of what  they were expected to give  was was out there. Uh, And, and the incredible golden age, as I said, of American capitalism, uh, lifted all boats with the tide.

[00:11:54] And then came this sort of um, two generations of, of globalization, which was celebrated with iconic intensity when every working man and woman in America just had to look up but know that it was nothing more than capital on the prowl in search of cheap labor.

[00:12:13] that world slowly disappeared. And even as that world disappeared, suddenly came into being this economic um, injustice, this extraordinary chasm, this discrepancy whereby today 1% of Americans have $30 trillion of assets and the bottom half of America have more debt than assets. The three richest Americans, and everybody knows their names, uh, have more wealth than the lower hundred and 60 million American citizens.

[00:12:44] And a nation that wants sort of spat out fighter planes by the hour Couldn't produce masks and swabs a nation that defeated polio and smallpox and led the world in medical innovation was suddenly ruled by someone advocating the use of disinfectants and flaunting medical advice on the fundamental use of masks. A nation that once celebrated the freedom of information, the flow  of knowledge... I mean Franklin and Madison Monroe Jefferson they all said that education was more important than Congress. Without knowledge, you couldn't have a democracy. And that of course has been eviscerated: America now ranks 45th in the world as a nation, when it comes to press freedom.

[00:13:31] The great American myth of the shining city on the Hill, you know, the huddled masses arriving at the door... of course it was a myth, but myths, myths aren't just stories. And it's not whether they're true or not they are the moral compass of a nation They are the measure of the aspirations of a nation and the myth of the Statue of Liberty and the huddled masses informed the American dream. It created the lodestone that was America.

[00:13:57]this is a country that has turned its back in a sense on its fundamental uh, founding.  Freedom is defined as the individual's right to own a personal arsenal of weaponry. When Americans go to the beaches or conventions or bars flaunting mocking the use of people who use masks, they think they're demonstrating some kind of freedom or strength, but they're actually demonstrating the weakness of the people who lack the stoicism to endure the pandemic or the fortitude to defeat it.

[00:14:30] Isabelle Roughol: [00:14:30] I think you're putting your finger on something that, um, I've been mulling for a while and that I find fascinating, which is that the very things in the American psyche that for me made the US fascinating and appealing and idolized in my teens and in my twenties, which is that sense of possibility, of individual freedom and potential, is the exact same dynamic that now  makes me think that I couldn't possibly live there again. And that, that sense of individuality to the extreme.

[00:15:03] Wade Davis: [00:15:03] Well, I think that that is really, Isabelle, that is such a brilliant comment honestly cause I think it strikes to the very heart of the matter.

[00:15:12] First of all, I want to say, I love America. Like you, I was drawn there in my youth. My career could never have happened in Canada. I married an American. I became a naturalized American. I raised my kids in the States. My father in law was nearly president of the United States: he turned down the vice presidency, offered to him by Richard Nixon. Um, My son-in-law is serving as an active officer uh, on military duty overseas at the moment. So this piece I wrote was in no way anti America, on the contrary. .  . um,  The America that I revered was the America of Abraham Lincoln, of Walt Whitman and the Grateful Dead.

[00:15:48]Um, But, but back to your point, you know, in the wake of world war two America embraced the cult of the individual with kind of iconic intensity to the point where today, not only is there a lack of a sense of community, many Americans don't even believe in the notion of society, uh, and the consequences are all around them. If you look at the breakdown of the family,  the high divorce rates set in the 1970s peaked out at 40, 45, 50%. The fact that the average American father spends 20 minutes only each day in direct communication with a child The fact that by the time American youth is 18 they've spent three years watching glass, uh, watching video games or, or a laptop monitor contributing to an obesity epidemic so severe that the joint chiefs of staff have posted, um, op-eds calling it a national security crisis. Americans today consume two thirds of the world's anti psychotic drugs, the largest cause of death for those under 50, believe it or not, is opioid addiction. Uh, and, and so these are the signs of not a healthy society.

[00:16:57] Only 6% of American homes have grandparents and grandchildren beneath the same roof. Not uniquely America, but we farm away our elders -- um, the wise ones if you will -- uh, into these uh, horrible um, old folks' homes, which kind of tragically, but in a strange way you know, inevitably became the epicenters for the, this, this horrid contagion . . you know, um, uh, All these elders who are all by themselves, you know, uh, uh, because we had abandoned them, you know?

[00:17:24]  That cult of the individual,  uh, which allows for the American Dream, um, doesn't do so well when, when the collective society is facing a crisis.

[00:17:34] I mean, one of the, you know, um, critiques of the piece I wrote for rolling stone, uh, from Canadians has been, you know, that I'm somehow, um, sugarcoating Canada. Well, that's not the case. I, the article is not really about Canada and I, I'm certainly not suggesting Canada's some kind of perfect place, but  when of the things that was working here was a social contract, um, an ongoing faith that individuals have in their country, in their institutions. You will never see a Canadian politician running against the government because we know the government is who we are.

[00:18:06]Um, I mean, it's the most, um, kind of strangely schizophrenic notion, um, that began really with Nixon and later Ronald Reagan, that somehow the US federal government is your enemy uh, when it's by definition, it's a shining expression, or it should be, of who you are as a democracy. Um, and you know, Our healthcare system caters to the collective, not the individual and certainly not the private investor who've used every, uh, hospital bed as a rental property.

[00:18:35] And, and in Canada we are a social democracy and meaning that, um, you know, we, we, we, we don't really view wealth as a currency accumulated by the lucky few, bless them, but rather by the strength of social relations andin the bonds of reciprocity that connect everybody in common purpose. know, Social democracy is not communism light as it's described in the United States. It's dynamic capitalism just seems to focus on every tier of the society. Um,  um, you know,

[00:19:04]Patreon break

Isabelle Roughol: [00:19:11] Hello listeners. We're taking a short break for an announcement: Borderline now also lives on Patreon.

[00:19:17] Reporting and producing this podcast on my own has pretty much become a full-time job. I'm pouring all my heart and many hours into it. I really want Borderline to be a voice for global citizens and add real value and information, not just chatter.

[00:19:31] If you want to support this mission, go to borderlinepod.com and click "become a member". Members get early access to every episode, behind the scenes content, chats with me, more surprises and even swag. Most importantly, more global citizen community and my undying gratitude. So become a member now at borderlinepod.com or search for Borderline on Patreon.

[00:19:53] And thank you.

[00:19:54]Now, back to Wade Davis.

[00:19:57] Wade Davis: [00:19:57] I use an allegory to try to explain to my American friends how it is different in Canada. And, you know, I said, just imagine the last time you went to the The safeway to get your groceries. when you go get your groceries in the States, there's a kind of economic class, educational, racial, social chasm between you and the checkout person, and it's almost possible the bridge No you don't I feel that when you go to a Safeway in Canada you don't necessary feel that the checkout person's your peer, you may have more or less wealth, more or less education, but fundamentally you feel that you can communicate because you are part of a wider community. And the reason for that is very simple as a Canadian you know that checkout person is getting a living wage because of the unions and you also know that their kids and yours probably go to the same local public school, which are funded, not by local property taxes, which favor the communities of the affluent, but are funded by the state and block grants to give every kid an equitable chance to move ahead on the resources to do so through education.

[00:21:03] And then of course, the third and critical, um, um,  thread if you will is healthcare And that checkout person knows and you know that they know that if their kids get sick they will get exactly the same care as your kids And indeed the kids are the prime minister. Now those three strands woven together, become the fabric of social democracy.

[00:21:24]Isabelle Roughol: [00:21:24] you point out that the success of Canada in, in handling COVID-19,  shows the strengths of that social bond. At the same time you do have countries with that social bond that have struggled with, with COVID-19 like, like Spain and France and Italy.

[00:21:41]There's also seems to be a pattern where every country with a populist government has done terribly. Um, if you combine the US and Brazil and Mexico and India and the UK, you have half of the world's deathtoll of COVID-19. So does COVID-19 show the failure of America, the failure of populism, which is it?

[00:22:02]Wade Davis: [00:22:02] Well, I think, I think right again, you know, I'm not trying to sugar coat um, uh, Canada by any means.

[00:22:07]But when you come to the other nations that you mentioned Brazil or, or the United States Boris's England for that matter, what you see is this, this foolhardy, um, kind of macho denial of life, denial  um, of biology. you know, The virus doesn't care. It thrives by not only co-opting our own fundamental biology , but it also attacks the social fabric of our lives, um, the connections of community, um, that are for the human as a social species what and claws represent to the tiger And so the chaos in a sense unleashed by the virus is exactly in evolutionary terms what the virus has in mind, if you will.

[00:22:50]This is why, you know,  the idea that you know, we don't need to wear a mask is no brave gesture. It's a gesture of utter contempt for your fellow citizens and, you know, societies that, that, that send people out in, in demonstrations um, against the restrictions  that are necessary, um, given to us by the top healthcare officials in the world, these people are not, um, exercising um, freedom.

It's not flag-draped patriotism that is the definition of um, the power of ideas. It's a constitution. You know, it's what America says. Um, It's the right to burn that flag, I would say, that is the most extraordinary expression of American democracy. And, you know, democracy is so fragile and, uh, you know, one of the things that is, is disturbing about. Um, this cult of the individual is, again, looking back at this from the anthropological perspective, you know, culture is not trivial.

[00:23:49] Culture is not decorative. It's not the songs we sing. It's not the flags we wave. It's not the prayers we utter. It's not the surface. What, what culture is in every society in every place in the world is a body of moral and ethical values that we wrap around each individual human being to keep at bay the barbaric heart that history tells us lies within every human. It's culture that allows us to make sense out of sensation, to find order and meaning in the universe to do what Lincoln said, seek always the better angels of our nature. And when that veneer of civilization is torn when, when the raw heart of the beast, if you will, is allowed to emerge, that's when you have nations that once gave us Mozart and Schiller, and Goethe suddenly, you know, resonating with the sound of jackboots in the street.

[00:24:44] Now I'm not suggesting that America is on the way of Nazi Germany, but they're pretty daunting images when you see white militia, self appointed militia stringing AK 47 or semiautomatic weapons  uh, of one sort or another over their shoulders and their fatigues and marching into government uh, legislatures.

[00:25:04] It seems to me that November is just an election. I mean, it's an important election, obviously. But it's not going to heal the divide. Even if Biden wins resound there will still be 50 to 60 million people who are on that other side who will believe in trouble fan the flames of this -- that the election was stolen from them. And Trump will do everything he can for his personal gain to maintain that rabid uh, following um,  that he has I mean it was upon. Um

[00:25:34]the only thing that's gonna heal America is to heal America. Somehow this chasm between those who have, and those who have little, um, the, this chasm of opportunity between those who have managed to go to university and those who haven't, um, the chasm of opportunity between those who have and abandoned as factories is close and become automated Something has to be done to give that cohort a sense of integration a sense of belonging a sense of being part of a an America That's not measured simply by slag rep patriotism  at a rally, but it's real where you know, social and racial justice um, become one of the same.

[00:26:18]Isabelle Roughol: [00:26:18]  You mentioned the election and so I've got just one or two final questions on, on that theme of, of the end of the American century. If there is a Biden administration,  you know, one can hope that COVID will be handled better, but is there an off ramp to this idea of the end of the American century? Or is it, is it done?

[00:26:40] Wade Davis: [00:26:40] Well, you know, I am not looking for Or to the end of the American century It certainly no time to gloat, nothing to celebrate. If indeed the hinge of history does okay Into an Asian century, dominated by China with its treatment of ethnicities, it's suppression of democracy It's it's social crediting scores that force uh, fidelity to the orthodoxy of the state... I mean, the litany goes on and on: the military zeal, the consumption of resources... um, We will be very nostalgic for the best years of the American century. I've always felt that, that at the end of the day, for all of its follies and for all of its egregious foreign adventures, for all of its versions of democracy, for all of its, um, uh, it's catering to dictatorships, uh, which has colored the years of the cold war, uh, there was always a kernel of hope in the American dream.

[00:27:37]Um, I was inspired by it. Many people around the world have been inspired by millions of people have been inspired by it. And one hopes that that flame of hope will never be extinguished. But you know, again, as an observer, you, you have to write about what is, not what a world you'd like to be. You know, um, when I look at all these indicators, it's hard and knowing the trajectory of history, at least over the last six, 700 years, it's hard to see a way for America uh, to reclaim itself. You know,

[00:28:13] none of what I wrote in his piece for one Stone uh, reflect deep seated beliefs of mine In other words it's not a polemic It's not an argument on trying to make . It wasn't an opportunity sort of to unleash on the world, uh, you know, some passionate thesis that I've had for years.

[00:28:28] So in that sense, um,  it reflects just a set of observations through the anthropological lens. And those observations are open to discussion. They're open to  criticism, they're open to be challenged. But, um, you can't challenge them by just sort of you know, uh, dismissing the author with some obscenity, you know, and if that's the best you can do, it's kind of suggesting that the arguments are hitting home and, uh, may just be valid.

[00:28:55]Isabelle Roughol: [00:28:55] And in fact, in its popularity... I found it through social media as well shared by an American friend and I know all the comments were Americans who, who recognized something in it.

[00:29:06]Wade Davis: [00:29:06] The vast majority of responses I should stress are from, uh, people around the world and from Americans  who expressed great sadness the piece not because I think that it's um, negative about that country in a gratuitous way, but because they recognize  in the description of what's become of America LT that they've been living and recognize and knowing And the piece in some sense just pulls everything together in a very succinct way. You know, I mean, this is sort of the, the, the job of, uh,  uh, of a scholar, writer, you know, storyteller.

[00:29:38] And so, you know, the great hope for America I think is when, when people wake up, probably in the wake of the election in November. And hopefully a victory by Biden We'll give people a time to breathe.

[00:29:54]I'd like to think there's a majority of Americans who want this division to be behind them. If there's not, if there's not the collective will to reach out to fellow Americans, um, to recognize that, you know, that race has been the curse of America since its founding, um, that the country is not just a white country, it's a white and Brown and black and blue and yellow and pink and red country. You know, It's every color of the rainbow.

[00:30:23]Um, If people get to the point where they want that dream of America more than they want to indulge their hatreds of each other, that will be the key to the recovery and, and perhaps even the resurrection of another century of America influence and dominance in the world.

[00:30:41]Isabelle Roughol: [00:30:41] Well, here's hoping.  I think a more together America is something that, that we would all benefit from wherever we are in the world. Thank you so much for this conversation. Um, if people want to follow your work, I know you're not very much a social media person, but you can tell us the name of your book again.

[00:30:57] Wade Davis: [00:30:57] "Magdalena, river of dreams." And it's a, it's been described as a love letter to Columbia and,  you know no Columbia a please we're heaven and earth comes together on a regular basis to reveal glimpses of the divine It is not a place of violence and drugs It's a land of colors and love And it's without doubt the most interesting nation in the Americas

[00:31:22] Isabelle Roughol: [00:31:22] Thank you. We'll make sure that people read that. Thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

[00:31:27] Wade Davis: [00:31:27] My pleasure I'll take care.

[00:31:29] Isabelle Roughol: [00:31:29] Alright. Take care.

[00:31:30]  The French century ended with the Revolution, or the Industrial Revolution, or with Napoleon. Whichever way you slice it, it's been a couple centuries since we've been on top and it's been a national pastime ever since to bemoan our lost grandeur.  We've expanded quite a bit of energy refusing to stand in the middle row of diplomatic photos. I wonder if in another couple of generations, national malaise will be an American malady too.

[00:31:58]My dear friends, take it from a country who's been there: I suspect we'd all be happier if we accepted a quiet middling fate. But we wouldn't quite be ourselves, would we?

[00:32:09] I want to thank Wade Davis for his insights and generosity. Special thanks to Tad Bartimus and two new Patreon members. Monica S and Patty Perkins.

[00:32:17]You too, can get your name in the credits. Click on "become a member" at borderlinepod.com or look for Borderline on Patreon. This week, Patreon members get the full interview with Wade Davis. We talked about twice as long as what you're hearing here. We talked about Colombia. We talked about Canada. We talked a lot more about the US and about Donald Trump.

[00:32:38]Music is by Topher Mohr and Alex Elena.  Don't forget to rate and review the podcast . You can always email me your feedback. I love to hear it. It's all at borderlinepod.com.

[00:32:47]Borderline is a One Lane Bridge production. Talk to you next week.

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Isabelle Roughol Twitter

Journalist, podcaster, media consultant. Telling stories & building better newsrooms. Writes The Lede. Ex- LinkedIn News, Le Figaro, The Cambodia Daily. 🎓 Mizzou '08, Birkbeck '25.