An America where a startling number of ordinary men and women, in thrall to serial mendacity, mistrust the electoral process when their candidate loses.
It would be all too easy to postpone confronting the structural causes behind this state of affairs, given that the nation — including its lawmakers and the incoming Biden-Harris administration — must cope with an unrelenting economic recession, volatile international relations, ecological catastrophes, a polarized public and, above all, a criminally mismanaged pandemic.
But Americans, awakened by the traumatic Trump experience to the more permanent frailties and limitations of their governing system, should not waste this unique opportunity to simultaneously tackle a festering crisis of democracy itself, which, if left unaddressed, will continue to endanger the republic.
If we think of Trump's reign not as an outlier but the extreme expression of a morbidity that has been accumulating since the birth of the country, rooted in the tangles of our collective history and DNA, then true healing can only begin if we the people decide to make an open-ended transition to an all-inclusive, all-embracing democracy, one that dares to reimagine the nation's broken identity. A new Constitution would be ideal, but if that is unfeasible, let us at least start a wide-ranging conversation about how to face this crisis with our eyes, hearts and intellects open.
Perhaps due to my Chilean origins, I am convinced that we urgently need drastic solutions and radical reforms, not piecemeal and partial ones. Americans should heed the cautionary tale that Chile sends us. In 1990, after 17 years of dictatorship, Chileans regained the right to determine their own destiny, but they were unable to take the crucial next step of pressuring their leaders to right the wrongs of the past and move forward to a full democracy. Remnants of the old regime survived, and strangled attempts at indispensable economic, political and social reforms.
Without those reforms, a majority of the people felt left out of the mainstream of public life, discourse and consensus, and became more cynical about democracy itself. They got ever angrier as they watched their land riven by economic disparity, with one system for the privileged and another for those without the means or power to be really heard.
Only now, 30 years later, fueled by last year's popular uprising that almost toppled the government, has Chile started on the road to a constitutional convention where the people will determine how they wish to be governed and, just as crucially, how the justice and equality they crave can become a reality.
Let us hope it does not take 30 years, and immense additional suffering, for the sovereign American people to recognize that it is time to achieve a higher form of democracy that will finally fulfill the promise of a more perfect union.