‘AMERICA will heal’. ‘The Reunited States of America’. ‘The world’s greatest nation can come together again as a beacon of democracy’. ‘Joe Biden will fix the United States’.

This is what the commentators tell us – these are the claims of the pundits and politicians. They’re delusional. The idea that Biden can ‘fix’ America is absurd. How can you fix what’s always been broken?

Let’s just imagine – for the sake of thought experiment – that Biden can somehow ‘fix’ America, that the new president has some miraculous toolbox that can undo centuries of wrong. If we accept the proposition that Biden can indeed ‘fix’ America, then we need to ask the question: what’s the present state of this nation which needs fixed? Just how badly is it broken?

Nobody needs a rehash of four years of Trump, but just one series of events from recent days clearly shows how deeply sundered the US is, how badly its democracy is shattered, how ruined the country has become: 12 National Guard troops, tasked with protecting Washington during yesterday’s presidential inauguration, were removed from security detail amid fears by law enforcement that there’d be an ‘insider attack’ on Biden. Some troops were linked to extremist organisations.

Let’s be blunt: US defence officials feared a member of the armed forces would assassinate Biden – and so ordered FBI vetting for every trooper in the National Guard in Washington.

As part of our thought experiment, imagine this state of affairs in London or Edinburgh. How would we view our own democracy if there were fears that members of the security forces were plotting to murder a Prime Minister or First Minister?

We’d know – without the need to be told – that our democracy was in tatters, and that it would be all but impossible to heal whatever wounds had festered so deeply in the body politic.

Yet, here we are, being told that Biden – a good man for sure – can fix this mess of a country.

But let’s ask the harder, deeper question: when it comes to America, what is there to fix? Has this country not always been broken? The idea of American greatness – of its superior democratic credentials – is built upon a mountain of mythologising, self-delusion and lies.

America was born out of genocide. How do you fix that?

Millions of Native Americans died to make way for the nation we’re told to idolise today. The Holocaust Museum in Houston, Texas, says there were more than 10 million Native Americans until European settlers (many Scots, Irish and English) arrived. By 1900, their population was 300,000. Blankets from smallpox patients were distributed to Native Americans to spread disease; 4000 Cherokee people died on the Trail of Tears alone, a forced march across America to Oklahoma.

How do you fix that?

American democracy was founded by slavers. George Washington spent his twilight years relentlessly pursuing an African woman, who’d escaped slavery at the hands of the nation’s revered first president. The escaped woman – Oney Judge – ran when she learned the Washingtons planned to give her as a ‘wedding present’. An advert in the Philadelphia Gazette from May 1796, for the apprehension of Judge, begins: “Absconded from the household of the President of the United States, Oney Judge, a light mulatto girl.”

Does anyone need a recounting of the horrors of slavery – the institution upon which American democracy was built? Some 17 million people were victims of the transatlantic slave trade. Human beings were mutilated, tortured, raped, murdered, worked to death, bred like cattle.

How do you fix that?

After the Civil War, black people were lynched at the rate of 50-100 a year into the 1870s. Postcards were sold as mementos of lynchings. Newspapers ran stories telling their readers when there’d be a lynching in town. Families would turn up to watch the killings – which sometimes took the shape of hangings, sometimes burning alive, or slow mutilation. The civil rights group, the NAACP, estimates that 3446 black people were lynched between 1882 and 1968.

We haven’t even discussed the abuses of civil rights in the Jim Crow era.

How do you fix that?

America’s sins are not confined to the past. In the last 50 years, America flooded the world with blood in Vietnam and Iraq – that’s just two examples of its mean, deceitful, pointless wars. Coming late into the war against Hitler is not a get out of jail free card for past sins. Facing off against the Soviet Union during the Cold War does not balance the books – particularly when wars like Vietnam, and coups and death squads in Latin America, were part of the American response to communist totalitarianism.

How do you fix that?

None of this is to hold Britain or Scotland or any other nation up as better than America. Far from it. Britain – and Scotland – are bloodied by Empire. But at least the vast majority of people here – aside from a few deluded British nationalists who see Empire as some great project, and a few deluded nationalists who refuse to accept Scotland’s role in Empire – accept our past sins.

America has never looked in the mirror – it seems incapable of self-scrutiny. It has spun for itself a confection of myths. It’s buried its terrible past under a mountain of exceptionalism and self-deluding lies. America is no ‘shining city on a hill’ – it’s as much a festering toilet as any other nation on earth. Power, size and wealth have blinded the US to its failings.

I’ve no animosity towards the American people, and I admire much of American culture. But the idea that Biden can somehow restore America to this great guiding light offends against morality and history.

What we have here is a lesson for all democracies. Cloaking a nation in a wardrobe of myths and lies will cause any democracy to stagnate and corrupt. Democracy is the means by which we rein in our worst selves – and that means ruthlessly confronting the truth about our past.

I wish Biden well. I hope he can staunch America’s current wounds. But it will take something much greater than a mere change of president to really ‘fix’ the United States.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald