Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Myth About "Them"

Rant Alert!

After traveling most of my life I always return home very much in love with my country. 

It is filled with wonderful people. People who work hard and play by the rules. People willing to look you in the eye and give you the shirt off their back.   

But, because I travel I also see firsthand what life is like in the nations I visit. 

So, when I return home it is hard to reconcile the stunning misinformation so many Americans readily accept from the American media. Misinformation that gets repeated over and over in vain attempts to make it feel true. These are people who rarely leave their own city, let alone country. Yet, they genuinely believe they know what it is like out in the scary "There". While the world keeps getting smaller, these folks never go experience it.

I believe America's current polarization is the direct result of an unreasonable national increase in fear and poverty.  It is now easiest to blame "Them". "Them" being terrorists or illegal aliens or any other scapegoat you choose.

Our current national fear began with Sputnik, simmered during the Cuban Missile Crisis and then cooked as global stockpiles of cold war era nuclear weapons just become larger and larger.

But I think the present tidal wave of national fear was unleashed when two airplanes hit the World Trade Center.

Why is fear so important to politicians? If not for fear, why, in the space of less than a decade, would Americans willingly forsake so many of the very civil liberties that used to be the envy of the rest of the free world?

Why would we welcome a poisonous "Patriot Act", or its subsequent spawn? How is it we have awakened to an era when everything we write, say or speak is recorded and becomes political leverage for whichever party is in power?

It is because we have collectively became frightened of "Them".

So, who are "They"?

Some of "Them" have skin pigmentation other than ours. "They" might even profess religions other than our own - or no religion at all. The point is "They" are frequently not like us.

And, in the process of becoming afraid, we collectively.....

1. Embraced "stupid".
We have devalued public education. We even allowed public tax dollars to be diverted from public schools to private ones. We sat back and idly watched our best educational institutions become reserved exclusively for the children of the rich. And, while teachers are revered in most of the rest of the world, we now treat them, not as scholars and educators, but as babysitters. 

Somewhere along the way we even began to ridicule our smartest kids, calling them "Geeks" and "Nerds". 

The US spends 5.65% of our GDP on education. While places like Cuba spend 13% of their GDP. "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also"
Matthew 6:21

2. Became less healthy.
Because we (including our Supreme Court) now believe corporations are people, we allow insurance companies the right to use our premiums to lobby congress. As a result, we pay more per capita for healthcare than any country in the world. We pay for everything twice. Once to the insurance company then to the healthcare system. 

Yet our healthcare is now far from "the envy of the rest of the world" some keep professing. And deep down we all know it. Insurance companies are now gatekeepers that actively obstruct our access to healthcare. They care only about the bottom line, not our health.

In fact, when compared to the 180-200 or so developed countries in the world America's ranking is pretty shabby.

Life Expectancy - America ranks: 42
Mother dying in Childbirth - America ranks: 52
Infant mortality - America ranks: 56
In category after category we rank solidly behind every EU and industrialized country in the world. In fact, we rank below some not-so industrialized countries as well (i.e. Serbia, Croatia, Cuba and Slovenia).

So next time someone blathers on about how bad healthcare is in Canada or Norway or Germany. Or England or Italy, just say Bullshit! The fact is citizens in those countries pay far less for healthcare and live longer and healthier lives than we do.

3. Failed "Nation Building 101"
After almost five decades of failed "Nation Building", from Vietnam to Afghanistan we have mortgaged mega trillions of our national treasure in the Military Industrial Complex Dwight Eisenhower warned us about. Yet, all we have discovered over and over is that our blood and advanced weaponry never remakes another country in our own image. We've killed and maimed (physically and emotionally) whole generations of Americans. 

While other countries require compulsory national service of ALL their children (rich or poor), we give our rich kids a free pass to register for college and play lacrosse. Our poor frequently can only escape poverty by joining the military. I cringe when I hear someone insincerely thanking them "for their service" on planes and in supermarkets. I say thank them with good jobs when they return and instant access to first class VA Hospitals.

In countries with National Service the young serve where needed; the Army, cleaning up cities even maintaining trails in National Parks. 

4. Gave away our middle class
That ship has sailed. Our middle-class jobs (the ones that had decent salaries) now reside overseas. In the quest to create short-term dividends for retired shareholders, our children got screwed. Today few Millennial's expect a standard of living better than their parents.

In record numbers Millennials live at home and enter the workforce later. If they are able to go to college at all most emerge deeply in debt. Fewer get married. Even fewer attend church. Most are left with no choice but to postpone families. They rent years longer. Many cannot even afford to insure and operate a car (i.e. hence the rise of "Zipcar"). They are not lazy. In fact, I think Millennial's are downright heroic in their ability to remain optimistic.  

My data came from the Pew Trust and the CIA World Factbook. The CIA Factbook is fascinating, you can check it out here. 

So unplug your computer, dish or cable TV. Take a weekend and go visit the next city over, then the next state over, then the next country over.

The ones you've never been too, but think you know so much about. 

Get off your ass and out of your comfort zone. 

Go meet "Them". 

Perhaps American's will finally become "Us".

We will all be better for it.

Roadboy's Travels © 2014

No comments: