Kaupo Meiel: We are more American than we care to admit

Kaupo Meiel.
Kaupo Meiel. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

America was with us before and will be with us in the future and it is therefore rather important, at least on an emotional level, who serves as its president, Kaupo Meiel finds in Vikerraadio's daily comment.

It is to be believed that more than a few people in the better educated parts of the world have become rather fed up with only hearing about presidential elections in America these days. But there seems to be no escaping the topic any time soon, nor should there be.

The effect of U.S. presidential elections the aim of which is to find the person who is sometimes also referred to as the leader of the free world can even invade people's mental health. A recent study suggests that residents of U.S. states that voted for Hillary Clinton four years ago were more likely to suffer mental health problems in the months following the 2016 presidential elections, while the mental health of Trump voters did not suffer to any notable degree. It is possible that Trump supporters are simply made of sterner stuff, but I suppose we'll see soon enough.

It is to be hoped that presidential elections in America will not affect the mental health of anyone in Estonia. While we cannot be sure, it is likely that people who have made the campaigns of Donald Trump and Joe Biden their number one priority in Estonia have already been locked in a clean room with a door that closes from the outside.

America lies far away from us and very few people in Estonia other than [ERR correspondents] Maria-Ann Rohemäe, Neeme Raud and Krister Kivi have any in-depth knowledge of it. I'm sure that around 10 percent of people do not even believe USA exists as it is bound to be a figment of someone's imagination, much like the coronavirus.

But the United States of America does exist and is very important for Estonia politically, militarily and culturally, while it is also perceived as a danger. For example, I cannot recall a single fall season in the past decade that made do without at least one scolding opinion piece on why we celebrate Halloween much like the Americans do but tend to overlook Martinmas and St. Catherine's Day celebrations.

While some grumbling is in order for show, the battle was lost a long time ago. Luckily, Halloween has not managed to oust Martinmas and St. Catherine's Day from Estonian culture. Both American holidays and Estonian folk customs can coexist, much like Toomapäev (December 21) and Christmas.

Besides, Halloween and Martinmas celebrations are very similar in nature, both teaching children the dubious lesson that if you show up on a stranger's doorstep wearing spooky clothing, you are likely to get free stuff.

It is a well-known fact that the USA is nothing but what Europe could have become had its most progressive, risk-prone and entrepreneurial people not sailed across the ocean to the New World. Everything America has taken away from us it is now giving back and Americanization is simply Europeanness moving to the next level.

America is all around us at all times. The most significant symbol on this road is the Hää Eesti Asi (Good Estonian Things) handicraft shop on Viru street being replaced by a Burger King. While a platonic lover of Estonian culture could shed a tear or two now, wailing is exhausting and a burger is just what the doctor ordered. Besides, better a Burger King than a gun shop.

American culture is infinitely wealthy and adopting certain phenomena from there no great shame. But since there are more things there than you can shake a star-spangled banner at, a choice needs to be made in terms of what to adopt. For example, instead of following the political example of Donald Trump, we could take after another U.S. president called Abraham Lincoln etc.

Swedish band Charizma that was relatively little-known in Sweden but hugely popular in Estonia once sang that the Swedes and Estonians are friends forever, and while their message was correct, it applied to Estonia and USA as opposed to Estonians and Swedes. Even the Finns and Norwegians are reluctant to hold hands with the Swedes these days.

America was with us before and will be with us in the future and it is therefore rather important, at least on an emotional level, who serves as its president. There is a simple test to demonstrate the importance of USA: Whose name comes to you first, the American or Latvian president?

Influential news, technologies, films, economic trends – everything comes from America. Even Santa Claus is an American masquerading as a Finn, what more is there to say. Therefore, despite wishing to come off as a naturalistic people of the forest, we are more American than we care to admit even to ourselves.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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