Like the rest of the world, I have been aghast at what I have seen of, and read and heard about, what is happening currently in the United States.
It seems incredible that a once great country should be suffering the worst effects and the highest number of deaths worldwide from the coronavirus pandemic, that there should be 40 million who have lost their jobs, and that the country should now be engaged in an undeclared civil war, in which American cities are on fire and armed groups of white supremacists shoot at demonstrators protesting about the killing of an unarmed black man by the police, and the police use tear-gas against, and fire rubber bullets at, the demonstrators and at news reporters.
The murderous policeman who killed George Floyd, appropriately enough bore the surname Chauvin, as did Nicolas Chauvin, a soldier in Napoleon's army, whose name became synonymous with excessive nationalism and a belief in racial superiority, and who gave rise to the term "chauvinism".
How did it come to this? How did the world's most powerful and wealthy country descend into such incompetence, division, chaos and violence - and disintegration?
Who, it might be asked, is supposed to be in charge here?
Who should be taking responsibility for the manifold failures and missteps that have led to this painful breakdown?
In most countries - democratic countries at least - the finger would have been pointed squarely at "the government". But, in America, the government is often seen to be a one-man band, and that is especially so when the President of the day acts as if he is the boss of a private corporation and is able to rule by decree.
The responsibility for the crisis, or rather, the crises, can be laid, in other words, only at one door.
Donald Trump claims to have unbridled power. What has he done with the power he claims?
• Bryan Gould: Coronavirus can be overcome if we pull together
• Bryan Gould: Now is the time to stay strong
• Covid 19 coronavirus: Bryan Gould: Trump's bizarre behaviour
• Bryan Gould: Government's crisis response will be front of mind come election
One is tempted to say that he has done nothing, that his failures are of omission rather than commission, that there is a vacuum at the heart of Washington, and that he has preferred to spend his time playing golf and tweeting incessantly, rather than addressing the problems that confront him and the country.
But this charge sheet, substantial though it may be, covers only part of his derelictions.
He has not only failed to address, let alone resolve, the country's deep-seated fault lines; he has actually made them - through his own words and actions - worse, and more destructive.
Instead of bringing his people together, as a true leader would have done, he has chosen to throw fuel on the fire, through his support for racist fanatics and far-right groups and sentiments, and has focused on casting around for someone else to blame for the catastrophes (not too strong a word) that have befallen his country.
The US is, in other words, suffering from a massive failure of leadership.
The man who has found himself facing these unprecedented challenges has been totally ill-equipped to deal with them. His focus has been elsewhere - and much closer to home.
When he wakes up in the morning, his first thought is not for the millions of his countrymen who are suffering or who have died, but for himself and his own chances of being re-elected.
At a time when the country has desperately needed a leader who can create, lead and deploy a national determination to act constructively together, he has been preoccupied with his own personal goals; he has instead represented and inflamed the divisions, prejudices and intolerance that distort American civil society and that so easily lead to violence, discrimination and anger.
The worst may be yet to come.
If he sends the army into the streets to harass and repress ordinary citizens, we are only a short step away from dictatorship. And imagine what his response would be if he loses the election.
Faced with the prospect and actuality of election defeat, nothing is beyond him.
He would not be the first would-be dictator to create and then take advantage of a crisis so that, on the pretext of dealing with it, he could suppress normal liberties and rights.
Watch this space.
- Bryan Gould is an ex-British MP and former University of Waikato vice-chancellor.