Saturday, July 05, 2008

Are Americans really whiny brats?

Watching America is one of the sites I have on my aggregator. They bring news articles from sources around the world and publish them translated into English. What is interesting about the site is that they focus on stories about the United States. In other words, how the rest of the world sees the U.S. Anyhow, they had a piece just in time for the July 4th holiday, entitled "Happy Birthday America: A Bunch of Spoiled, Whiny Brats." It was published originally in Pravda, the Russian newspaper. Now before you go pulling your hair and ripping your tunics in mock outrage, keep in mind that the article is written by an American, and that American is still living in the States. The article does lay the negative tone a bit on the thick side, but as the nation celebrates the independence of the great nation (and in spite of its defects, it is still a great nation), the piece does bring up some things to think about.

  • On American politics: "None of it adds up to change and, no matter who is elected as president or which party controls congress, odds are America will be on the same course towards more war, more economic pain, more infrastructure problems, and more security intrusions into the daily routine." Can anyone say with a straight face that the nation will truly change after January of next year after the next guy is inaugurated?
  • And why is the nation stuck on more of the same? Here is why: "The executive and legislative branches, according to polls, are sincerely reviled and that means both Republicans and Democrats get equal measure of disgust. But the two parties and their interested backers simply don’t care because they know the American people have no choice but to vote for one or the other. And so the game is all about the two parties entertaining each other and those top few percent of Americans and American corporations that control over 90 percent of America’s wealth." As George Carlin said so well, government was bought out a long time ago. And I hate to say this, but people with their apathy and just plain stupidity just let it happen. You can find Carlin's quote on that, along with a nice piece about him, in this article from June 23rd in The Nation.
  • Here is the line in the article that really made me think. In fact, it has been with me for a while now: "Do they want education systems, roads, bridges and levees that function properly? Well then they need to stop whining about taxes and pay up or make those who pay nothing pull their weight." At the end of the day, it is as simple as that. If you want public services, things like cops, firefighters, schools, maybe a library (or not on the library if some people have their way), hospitals, roads and bridges, then shut up and pay your taxes already. I pay mine, and while I certainly don't like taxes (who does?), I understand you need them to provide for the common good. Therein lies the problem. No sense of the common good. It's the "everyone is on their own" mentality where all they think about is themselves and forget the neighbor. The idea that we are all in this together, and that when we help the less fortunate in the end means we help ourselves as well, is pretty much gone. And that, my friends, is sad indeed.
  • Then again, some people will say we can still have our bridges. From the article: ". . .with their states selling off bridges and roadways for money, it seems they find government of any kind is too much of a burden. Americans really don’t want to pay for anything and they are not accountable to or for themselves (witness Katrina)." So, there is the solution. Don't want to provide for public services, just go ahead and privatize them. We are already doing some of it in higher education, and it seems to be working, right?
The article ends with a remark that the founders of the nation would be appalled. I would say they are probably rolling in their graves. I have actually taken time to read some of the writings of people like Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Thomas Paine, and others. And they spoke of a government where the people were actively involved and kept their government accountable. Whatever happened to that simple yet powerful idea? So maybe, just maybe, as people celebrate a long weekend, they can take a moment from their barbecues and shopping to think about where the nation is headed instead of staying blissfully ignorant. Just a thought.

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