This thought was provoked after reading a simple question from a friend on Facebook. Basically, he was noting that India and China were making major
investments in education at the same time the U.S. is slashing education funding and what did this bode for our future here in the U.S. in terms of
competitiveness. But our "problem" goes much, much deeper and I thought the place to layout my thinking was here and not Facebook.
Important questions like the education one above are at this stage pointless to ask. Can we really continue to ask how we fix any single thing without
addressing first the grim realities of our country that all feel in their bones, but few want to admit? We have so many fundamental, even existential
problems as a nation that if not dealt with, prevent any action on the particulars. I really mean this and frankly I am doubtful we’ll come out on
the other side of these issues whole.
Here’s a few of what I consider to be nationally existential issues and I'd be curious about thoughtful members' input.
1. A recalcitrant and cynical major party that views every issue through the fun house mirror of religious dogma and because they are literalists,
they are pre-disposed to reject science – all science (natural and social). Academic studies mean nothing because with every issue they head to the
bible for an answer. And since the bible is to them absolute truth,, the real, testable facts are rejected. Everything becomes a matter of opinion and
nothing is a matter of fact, save for their Truth. Rational discussion and problem solving become impossible.
Further, as literalists, they are only able to view the Constitution and its parts in the same literal context versus allowing it to be a living
document whose tenets can be thoughtfully applied to modern challenges. Theirs is a world without nuance, without adaptability.
Finally, the Constitution becomes secondary to the bible. If God is first, what then is man's law to get in its way? A Republic based on the Rule of
Law cannot be maintained when half the populations considers another, self selected set of "laws" primary to the civil law.
There are so many consequences to all this they are too numerous to mention, but I think it fair to say we have headed to real Constitutional crisis
on multiple fronts.
2. A national blind devotion to the myth of American Exceptionalism, keeping us from acknowledging deficiencies with the “American Way,” much less
objective assessment of those problems or consideration of solutions proven by other nations. Too many Americans will simply refuse to believe how far
we’ve fallen or that what we claim is almost certainly not unique and usually far from the best. Even such stalwart concepts we think as being
quintessentially American, like the best opportunity for upward mobility is simply not true (a person in France, for example, has a more likely chance
of moving upward). But let’s face it, it is a patriotic heresy to say, “Hey, it works great in Europe, let’s see if it can work here?”
I hear comments like, "At least in the U.S. we have freedom." Well, more than half the world has freedom at least as equal to ours, some greater. But
more than that, is our modern American definition of freedom even real freedom? In the U.S., "freedom" actually translates into "no government
A European definition instead looks at human well being: "I am free to do what I love and follow my dreams because I need not factor in if that work
gives me access to health insurance." By contrast, an American faces a Hobson's choice: "I am free to do what I want, but if that leaves my family
without healthcare, that's life." It is like saying, you are free to live or die, which will you choose? Consequently, Americans stay in jobs they
hate and their dreams are harder to achieve. Sadly, many in the U.S. will say, "tough luck," a decent, humane life is only deserved by those either
skilled enough, lucky enough or dogged enough to earn it.
3. The American obsession with unfettered capitalism such that anything that deters maximum profit must necessarily equal “bad” or even
“immoral.” We’ve long ago forgotten that economic models are creations by people invented to serve society, not the other way around. We have
elevated it so much, it is not only orthodoxy, but actually codified in law, that corporations are people.
Profit has become the best and highest good that our government can promote. So, for us, a dying three year old is a profit opportunity. For us, it is
legal and considered smart for companies to take out life insurance on regular employees, with the company as beneficiaries. For us, it is immoral for
government to do what the private sector can otherwise control for profit. Prisons, schools, war, health, national intelligence, highways, human genes
– these are all things we have turned over to the necessarily and by definition amoral corporation. The needs of the society become a long second
versus the needs of the corporation, which is solely more profit and perpetual growth ( logically unsustainable) independent of "goodness" or the well
being of the society on which it feeds.
4. A media too integrated into and cozy with the power structure to do much more than showcase conflict and construct false equivalence because they
now think truth to be mutually exclusive of objectivity. Imagine modern media moderating a debate between Hitler and Churchill. “Mr. Prime
Minister, Chancellor Hitler says Jews are a lesser, subhuman race, you say they are not. Why is his opinion any less valid than yours?”…
5. An insatiable Mil/NatSec sector leveraging both fear and American arrogance (see #2) to breed a militaristic, intrusive, gear-up-shoot-first
culture -- both domestically against its own citizenry and overseas – to keep itself the unquestioned top budget priority. One byproduct is a vulgar
and dangerous erosion of the most basic civil liberties and rise of the police state: the militarization of law enforcement, the Patriot Act, the
NDAA, forfeiture laws, the War on Drugs, etc. The other is the militaristic, arrogant foreign policy: extrajudicial and unilateral killings with
drones (even of American citizens) in sovereign nations, the oxymoronic Bush Doctrine of “preventative war.” Does anyone really believe this has
done anything other than breed hatred of us the world over, degrading us from a nation with some argument of holding a moral high ground to now a
pariah that is more feared than respected?
Maybe I am too pessimistic because I do not think any of the above gets fixed. I expect over the next generation or so a disintegration of the U.S. in
to multiple parts is inevitable. Our differences now are too great, our animosities too virulent. The disintegration will be peaceful hopefully, but
maybe not an maybe even doubtful.
Then again, would not an optimistic PollyAnna attitude be a reflection of an American Exceptionalist attitude, as in it can’t happen here, not in
the good ol’ U.S.A? But it can and we did. In fact, we did it better than anyone in the past few centuries – the Civil War.
edit on 26-8-2012 by pajoly because: sp
edit on 26-8-2012 by pajoly because: (no reason given)