I think I know why the United States of America is likely to remain the greatest of powers, at least for quite some time to come.
I travelled there after two-and-a-half years of interruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic. I thought that I would be seeing a country devastated by the high number of deaths that Covid-19 had inflicted on the most advanced economy on earth. I thought that I would fear coming to a society where the Capitol Hill riot of 2021 had besmirched America’s democratic credentials. I had no idea of how open Americans would be to foreigners given the domestic travails they had undergone.
I was proved wrong on all three counts. Washington DC is a splendidly political city. Its corridors of power hum as always with the incessant traffic of civic-minded Americans who will leave no stone unturned to secure their constitutional rights. The White House, the seat of American power, remains a seat of global power as well.
I stayed at The Jefferson. Built in 1923, just four blocks north of the White House, The Jefferson Apartments was converted into a hotel in 1955 and reemerged as a luxury hotel in 2009. Its exceptional service made it a pleasure for me to stay there. The dreadful pandemic had not robbed it of its charm. When I stepped out of it, there was a veritable concert of beautiful faces waiting for me to enter the halls of beauty as the conductor. How beautiful American women are: whites, blacks, Latinas, Asians – they all are plural expressions of a singular American beauty. Alas, I was in America on work, not to fall in love.
Then I took a four-hour drive to New York in a chauffeured Escalade SUV. The transition was seamless. The weather was cool. American highways are made for existential travel: One loses oneself every mile of the way in order to recover that self in the next mile. This is how America renews itself: by allowing humans to make the most of their transience in life through the reinvention of every momentary self.
New York was about buying Giorgio Armani shirts in my favourite racing green and navy blue colours. Here again, was a city that had survived the architectural Holocaust of the 2001 terror attacks by rebuilding itself from the ground upwards. The rebuilding was not only physical but mental. New Yorkers have put the past behind them. That is what Americans do best: outgrow the past. Among them, I, too, began to look again to a future in which terrorism, Covid and whatever else awaits us will not derail the future present in you and me.
The future will prevail in America, and in Singapore.