Even on 6 January 2021, one of the darkest of dark days in American history, Senator Kelly Loeffler of Georgia, could not help but exclaim a well-worn cliche on the floor of the Senate: America is the greatest country on earth. There are other cliches bandied about at will in America as well. Such as it being the leader of the free world. Or the world’s sole superpower. Or American being an exceptional people. Or being God’s own chosen people?

What happens when too much power is given to a power that has gone mad? America happens. Scientists say that for every two people being reported dead from Covid, three people are actually dying. That means more than half a million Americans have died of Covid, the most of any nation in the world. America is supposed to have firstrate medical infrastructure. Why did it fail its people so badly? Who is responsible for so many deaths?

America’s military is vaunted, now much more by its own people than by its adversaries. Since World War II, the American military’s fighting record has been debatable. More recently, it has been pathetic. It went into Afghanistan to catch Bin Laden, but just when it had him in its grasp in the mountains of Tora Bora in December 2001, it outsourced his capture to Afghan warlords who let him slip away. Was anyone held responsible for that fiasco?

America has had to spend another 20 years in Afghanistan. After Afghanistan came Iraq, and now Syria and Yemen. Even though it is armed with the latest weaponry, the US military just cannot win a war. Something is wrong somewhere, but no one wants to figure out where. Just state the cliche over and over again – the US military is the greatest in the world – and everything will be just fine.

The US military claims to be apolitical but wasn’t it the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley who accompanied President Trump on his unholy march to St. John’s Church and that too dressed in full battle fatigue. Milley apologized later but what was he thinking when the president asked him to accompany him. Milley should have said no and stood his ground.

On the other hand, he appeared a willing accompaniment of the president. And if he was so contrite, he should have resigned. He perhaps knew that if he didn’t listen to the president, he might have gotten fired instantly. So he listened and then weaseled out of any repercussions by apologizing later.

This constant lack of accountability, this constant resort to praising oneself with soaring rhetoric, all this led the country to January 6. Everyone knew that tens of thousands of red necks were going to march on to the Capitol at the orders of their commander in chief. Yet, there was hardly any security protecting the building. The hoodlums were allowed to do as they pleased, sending members of Congress scurrying into their rabbit holes, petrified for their lives.

Imagine if 30,000 blacks or Muslims had congregated near the Capitol. Would it have been made an impregnable fortress then? Your guess is as good as mine.

Racial inequality, a failing army, a capitulating medical infrastructure, corrupt politicians, all these bedevil America. But they say a fish rots from the top. Donald Trump has another two weeks in power. Who knows what he will conjure up next? But it’s not about Trump alone. It’s about the next man as well.

One of Joe Biden’s stated top two priorities during his campaign for president was police reform, the other of course being managing the pandemic. But now he says that he won’t do much about police reform. Isn’t that a massive betrayal of trust of African Americans who so believed in him as to put him in office? Think South Carolina. And now that the Democrats control everything – the White House, the Senate, the House – will they veer out of control? For instance, will they foist incomplete climate solutions on an unsuspecting and even unwilling nation?

America needs to go back to the drawing board. No longer is it the greatest nation on the planet. Instead, it has become the laughing stock of the planet. Its politicians like Loeffler should stop fooling themselves as well as us. They, and the American people, have serious work to do. Just because most of them have a pale skin tone doesn’t make them superior to any other people on earth. Or any more exceptional. Or even, any more chosen.

The writer is an expert on energy and contributes regularly to publications in India and overseas.