The possibility that America may elect Donald Trump president is like hearing an old friend announce that they’ve joined a cult and they’re getting on the bus just now to head into the desert and wait for the UFOs, writes Donal O’Keeffe.

Dear America,

I hope you don’t mind my saying this, but I think you’re in big trouble.

I hope I’m not out of line, but sometimes you just have to tell your friends when they need to cop themselves on in a hurry, don’t you? And, in fairness, America, you wouldn’t be too far behind the door yourself when it comes to offering your opinions to friend or foe, would you?

Seriously, though, you know how much trouble you’re in, I think. With the gun crimes, the racial hatred and the hopeless class division, it’d be hard not to know. Polls show that over 80% of American citizens believe their country is on the wrong track.

But, bad as things are, I don’t know if you’ve grasped just how bad things may be about to get. Bad for you, and bad for the rest of the world.

On this side of the Atlantic, it’s suddenly dawning on us that maybe you’re actually not messing after all.

It’s suddenly becoming horribly apparent that significant numbers of you think that the solution to all of your problems is a man who says “No one has worse judgment than Hillary Clinton – corruption and devastation follows her wherever she goes”.

Which is a bit rich coming from a thrice-married, six-times-bankrupted, racist, misogynistic, narcissistic, thin-skinned, short-fingered, crypto-fascist, polyester-headed Oompah-Loompah demagogue.

This is like hearing an old friend announce that they’ve joined a cult and they’re getting on the bus just now to head into the desert and wait for the UFOs.

I should say, I’m not having a go for the sake of having a go. I genuinely love America. Okay, not without qualification, obviously, but then I love Ireland more than I love America and I have at least as many problems with my own country. But I grew up watching American TV and American movies, and reading American comics and American literature and listening to – and loving – American music.

You gave the world Mister Spock and “The Wire” and Jimmy Stewart and “Star Wars” and Terence Malick. You gave us Superman and Harvey Pekar and Marvel Comics and Ray Bradbury and Harper Lee and John Steinbeck. You gave us Ella Fitzgerald and Steve Reich and Nina Simone and Woody Guthrie and Bruce Springsteen.

Walking through Manhattan for the first time felt to me like the millionth time. The perfectly-named skyscrapers teetering impossibly into the autumn blue, the shoals of yellow cabs on Broadway, the sea of humanity in Times Square, the steam billowing up from the sidewalks; it was all joyously familiar to me. Unlike the film David Bowie called “a saddening bore”, I’d lived this movie ten thousand times or more and loved every second of it.

Gazing up at the glory of the Flatiron Building, I swear George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody In Blue” played unbidden in my head. And you know something? If any other piece of music ever captured the beating heart of New York, I don’t even want to hear it. (Unless of course Lou Reed wrote it.)

Walking through Greenwich Village, on the trail of Dylan and Van Ronk and Odetta and Tommy Makem and the Clancys, I caught my breath at the sudden sight overhead of water towers. As a kid I always assumed that Steve Ditko and Stan Lee had invented water towers just to give Spider-Man a convenient backdrop against which to fight Doctor Octopus.

My point is that I’m hardly alone in my love of your country, so please take us at our word when we tell you how much we like you and when we ask you if you’ve lost your minds.

You seem to be genuinely flirting with a presidential candidate who appeals to humanity’s very worst instincts.

The seemingly unstoppable rise of Trump has been profoundly depressing and the UK’s lemming-like Brexit vote shows how the unthinkable can very easily become the inevitable. So far Trump has seen off every rival and last week a CNN poll put him three points ahead of Hillary Clinton. He himself has marveled that nothing he does or says seems to affect negatively his ratings, boasting that he could shoot somebody “in the middle of Fifth Avenue” and not lose support.

Be that as it may, and just out of interest, why has Trump become the first candidate for the US presidency in half a century not to release his tax returns? I mean, you’d assume he’d be bragging about how great they were and how they showed what an amazing, amazing businessman he is.

A friend of mine reckons Trump’s tax returns portray him in a less than flattering light. I think she’s onto something there. She suspects they might show he’s not the businessman he claims to be and – as she puts it – if he’d actually done nothing else but invest that colossal pot of money he inherited from his father he might well actually be richer now.

Me, I reckon it’s something more sinister. That manly man’s man flirtation The Donald has going on with Vladimir Putin might be about more than just two anti-democratic egotists who quite like the look of each other. Just how much is Trump in hock to the Russian oligarchs, I wonder? Of course, I’m sure I’m wrong. And I’m sure those tax returns would prove how wrong I am.

Hillary Clinton denounced Trump the other day as a man who can be baited by a tweet. And he responded by proving her right by tweeting her a dozen times or more. As we say on Twitter, FFS.

Trump is promising that electing him will solve all of America’s woes and “make America great again”. There’s a horrible chance that voters who never vote will turn out in their droves to vote for the living embodiment of The Last Stand of the Angry White Male. As former deputy National Security Advisor Nancy Soderberg put it recently, “Donald Trump’s promise is to return America to the 1950s: where white men worked, where white women stayed at home and where black men knew their place”.

Not to go all Godwin on you here, but you know who else claimed to be the only man to restore his country to an earlier (fictional) greatness and who pinned all of his country’s ills on one minority?

Trump is gonna build a wall. He’s gonna deport Muslims. He’s gonna make America great again. He don’t like women, he don’t like Black people and he don’t like nuance. He’s angry and he’s vulgar and to your friends, America, it looks like you’re actually thinking about electing him for the craic.

From this side of the Atlantic, it seems horrifyingly clear that you are sleepwalking your way toward fascism.

I love you, America, but you’re scaring the living crap out of me.

Your worried friend,