U.S. is in crisis and turning to European ideals can be the solution

by Ryan Price , Contributor

It was apparent after I spent a semester in Germany how negatively Americans are perceived by Europeans right now. Talking to a diverse range of Europeans made it clear people from all over the world are losing trust and respect for the U.S. — mostly because of President Donald Trump.

Through conversations with people, it seems many do not want to visit the U.S. as much as they used to anymore. Several people I met early on in my trip told me about their fears of traveling to the U.S. Some expressed their disdain for the U.S. ubiquitous gun culture and anti-immigrant sentiment — so much so that some were re-thinking their upcoming trip to the U.S.

The ‘Trump slump’ is thought to have attributed to a decline in tourism in the U.S., which is down four percent and equates to a loss of about $4.6 billion according to the U.S. Travel Association. Trump consistently claims to be fighting for the common man and woman, yet his actions — and particularly his words — are hurting the millions of people in the tourism economy. The Trump administration has done more damage to the economy and U.S. standing in the world. Americans must be steadfast in their opposition to the Trump era style of politics and signal to the rest of the world that the president’s supporters are still a minority.

The U.S. has long been credited as the leader of the world, the warrior for human rights and champion of freedom and democracy. Numerous Europeans asserted that this is no longer the case. The fact that the U.S. is not a leader in combating climate change came up in conversation a few times. It’s difficult to understand how it is possible that Trump denies the existence of climate change, while China is investing billions to slow the progression—albeit for a profit. Despite the fact that climate change was one of the issues I discussed most with people, many were optimistic about the role of other countries in the climate debate.

Europeans have taken a hard line against polluters in recent years and fervently strive for sustainability. Companies in countries like France, the United Kingdom and Germany are producing massive amounts of wind energy and are profiting from the proliferation of solar panel and wind farm technology. The U.S. — and the Republican party in particular — should look to Europeans as a model on how to slow the tides of climate change all while producing stable and high paying jobs.

Although the U.S. is 24th in reading, 38th in math and 24th in science compared worldwide according to Pew Research Center, we have continuously been at the forefront of scientific and pharmaceutical breakthroughs, and technological revolutions. There is, unfortunately, a widening gap in education. Also, because so many people refuse to believe in science, facts and credible statistics, many Europeans see us as a nation of rubes.

Some people I spoke with believe that the Trump administration’s opacity would go unchallenged unless people read more about the issues and stopped watching biased news sources like Fox News. Moreover, we will never see a change in the U.S. until we fix our education system and catch up with the rest of the world’s education leaders.

The U.S. spends a lot of money per student on education, and still, parents and teachers have to supplement the costs. With extremely high costs and lackluster results, it is apparent that there needs to be a comprehensive education plan moving forward. If the U.S. is to be a globally competitive country, it must be more efficient with education dollars and better prepare students.

The U.S. must also implement skill-based education curriculum for those who don’t want to pursue higher education, as well as for the people who will lose their jobs to automation and other global market forces.

With such responses to the state of this nation, we must meet these comments with caution, yet understanding. Europe is not a perfect polity. Mass immigration, debt crises, far-left socialists and far-right nationalists have all plagued Europe, but few places on earth offer a better model for democratic values, education and climate leadership.

The U.S. is in crisis on many fronts, and we must learn from the successes and failures of our European allies to keep the country from plunging further into the world of fake news, hatred of immigrants, denial of science and poor education for the next generation.

As citizens who love this country, our goal should not be to bash the U.S., but to understand the problems better so we can contribute to its success. Being open to constructive criticism about our country allows us to have a more evolved look at the world, and in turn, can make us better citizens and voters. Having a president who notably refuses to read books, spews falsehoods every day and publicly ridicules anyone and everyone, should motivate us to take an introspective look at ourselves, so history does not repeat itself. We are not the nation we should be, but by opening our eyes to other perspectives and different truths, hopefully, we can be.