Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The What's Right and What's Wrong with America Blog

I have been putting off publishing this blog for some time. I realize that most of the reading public does not want to discuss things political., not really. We all would rather enjoy lovely stories of happy things and not deal with things about which we have no real input or over which we have no real control. I get that. But I still need to vent from time to time. And you, Dear Reader, can choose not to read me, but I hope you will. The thing is, there is so much self-delusion in the world that a reality check has to happen every once in a while. It is always easy to be critical. When we look at our great nation, we see its flaws. And blind spots: Americans, by and large, slip into the comfort zone of their own personal desires and needs despite the needs of those around them. That’s not an American thing, it’s just a thing. What’s great about America is that we can stare at those flaws without impunity. I am proud that in America we can fight for what we believe. I am disappointed that we still have to. America has the highest Gross Domestic Product in the world. In average per capita income we rank sixth. We have the number one military budget by far. But in other crucial areas we have slipped and are continuing to slip below the rest of the industrialized world. Our generous nature is partially belied by the fact that, although our nation provides the largest physical amount of foreign aid to the world, based on gross national income twenty nations are more generous than we. The World Health Organization ranks the US health care system 37th in the world just behind Costa Rica. I think it fair to say that, in America, the Hippocratic Oath goes only goes as far as the money to pay for it. The Affordable Care Act has done nothing to change this. The Program for International Student Assessment ranks American students 36th out of 65 countries, with below average ratings in mathematics. Educational reforms do not appear to be working. Fifteen percent t of Americans live below the national poverty line; that’s over 48,000,000 people, in the richest nation in the history of the world. Obviously, there is room for improvement – but first we have to admit that we have a problem. A report released on November 17, 2014, stated that one in every thirty children in America is homeless. Homeless. In America. That is 2.5 million (2,500,000) homeless children. They probably don’t have computers, either. Just guessing. It seems that everyone in this country already assumes that everyone in this country has a computer and knows how to use it, or at least a cellular phone of some sort with plenty of apps loaded and ready. I don’t think that’s true, and I think it is a very egotistic, perhaps even hubristic, assumption on the part of American commerce. Maybe if you don’t have apps and wireless you don’t matter. Obviously, there is room for improvement – and I don’t necessarily mean “a chicken in every pot, a computer in every room.” Profit remains king in America. This by itself is not a bad thing, it has driven the economic engine that produced the wealthiest country ever. But profit without responsible distribution – sharing – leads to what we are seeing here. The distance between the “classes” is growing, while the number of classes is shrinking down to two, and in the bargain American soon will no longer be, if it still is, Number One where it counts. We have lots of guns, but our bridges are falling down. We have a high stock market but children who go to bed hungry at night through no fault of their own. We have equal opportunity employers and a glass ceiling. Obviously, there is room for improvement. We have a press that loves sensationalism and calls it journalism, at least on the mass market scale (the Third Estate still exists but newspapers and magazines are slowly shrinking and dying in the face of social media and America’s need for instant gratification). That press seems to enjoy reporting and re-reporting on the things that scare us, and even underlying how frightened we should be: today’s Ebola Crisis so far has involved three “real,” i.e., uncontrolled, cases and grabs the headlines at the beginning of nearly every news program, fueled by the deadly nature of this hard-to-contract disease; meanwhile, a new strain of enterovirus (D68) infected, at last report, 825 people, mostly children, with cases reported in 46 states. This disease has killed or crippled small children, is more easily spread (air borne), and yet reporting on it was casual to non-existent. But the attitude seems to have been: “Let it run its course, and parents be careful.” Obviously, there is room for concern. We also have a President who is all but ineffectual with a Congress that is stonewalling him at every turn. I will say it plainly: the White-dominated Republicans are delighting in making the first Black President look like a failure even if it means stagnation for the country. And I won’t even get on my usual high horse about the ISIS Crisis and the developing ten year plan for dealing with a small band of renegade terrorists, while the Crimean Crisis is no longer mentioned and Al Qaeda and the Taliban seem to be off the radar. This is a good country. It once was a great one and it still projects itself as such. It could be great again, but self-delusion has to stop first. My parents immigrated to the United States in part to find the American Dream. In large part, they succeeded, and my life in this country has been great, and I am grateful. I have been given a voice, even if its reach is small. I use my voice to cry against those things that we can change. I’ve seen great progress made in my lifetime but I also have seen reverse steps willfully taken. We have the resources, we have the manpower. But we no longer have the intellect, and I am beginning to think we lack the will.

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