Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Why It’s All Right to Be American

In honor of Independence Day, an essay on why, despite its mostly-negative global reputation, there’s still no better place to be in the world than the good old U.S.of A


The United States of America, clearly, has a lot of problems. Wealth inequity is rampant, classism (and its much more publicized nephew, racism) eat to the very core of the nation’s social framework, education is comparably substandard, two-thirds of the country is overweight, the judicial system is almost comically farcical, political corruption is off the charts, corporate malfeasance reigns virtually unchecked by an all-too permissive federal government, consumer debt keeps increasing and compared to nations that aren’t actively engaged in states of active warring, our national homicide rate is downright mind-numbing.

But, even with all of those faults and foibles taken into considerations, there’s still no denying that the US of A is far and away the greatest country on Earth. And no, I’m not being sarcastic. For real, this time.

Back in college, I had this one professor, whom was a transplant form Russia. As an immigrant from a former communist regime, she clearly had some qualms about this whole “America” thing, and made it a point to perpetually reinforce the fact that U.S. politicos have been responsible for a shit-ton of underhanded, global ass-holery over the last 75 or so years. Installing the Shah in 1953, combating the Huk Rebellion, overthrowing a democratically-elected Guatemalan regime and kinda’ kick-starting a civil war, backing/supporting the occupation of Lebanon, engineering coups in Chile to topple Marxism, aiding and abetting some real shady folk in Somalia and Angola…and let’s not even BEGIN to get into the stuff that happened pre-World War II, like slavery and the Native American genocide. For a person with literally ZERO African or Indigenous American blood in her body, she sure did have it out for all of those nefarious, lily-white no-good-nicks that forged the USA atop a massive pile of death and destruction (which is something the Russians have NEVER, EVER been known to wreak, you know.)

Which, of course, brings me to the question I always wanted to ask her (but never did, because I wanted an “A” in the class, which, sure enough, I got by simply parroting all of her rhetoric on my term papers.) If America is so bad, and it’s entire existence anchored around such inexcusable atrocities, then why in the blue hell did she VOLUNTARILY CHOOSE to relocate to the U.S. to begin with?

That sounds like a legitimate question, doesn’t it? I mean, I have lots of problems with the U.S., but then again, I was born here -- I have every right to complain, by birthright. But this radical America-hater made the personal, non-coerced decision to pack her bags, apply for a work visa, and leave her native homeland a million (well, okay, more like just a couple of thousand, but still) miles away, and for what? To incessantly badmouth the country, bringing up every conceivable negative thing the nation’s political leaders had done, since three hundred years before she was born?

While she gets the opportunity to do that a plenty (since we’re a country that actually PROMOTES free expression, even when it gives a middle finger to the abstract conceptualization of whatever the United States allegedly is), she would never, EVER come out and say why she REALLY came to this so-called “Evil Empire” that’s exported Western imperialism to every corner of the globe. Apparently, she can overlook the moral pangs she doesn’t actually feel regarding the United States’ savage (albeit, not even remotely unique) heritage, because she can actually make some damn money here and live her life comfortably and unmolested by national powers.

They don’t call America the land of opportunity for nothing, you know. Which probably explains why so many foreign-born opportunists have all flocked here, in spite of our morally reprehensible grand narrative of bloodshed, oppression and mass killing.

Alcohol, crass commercialism, Wal-Mart, jingoism and a celebration of military aggression: I DARE YOU to find a picture more American than this. 

I don’t know if you’ve realized this or not, but apparently, a lot of Mexicans like to enter the United States, and sometimes, without asking permission first. While a lot of pundits go back and forth about the matter, the one thing NOBODY -- left, right, liberal or conservative -- ever argues about is WHY all of these people are risking life and limb to enter the country: because, a good goddamn, does Mexico suck. If given the chance to work at a Steak N Shake for minimum wage or sell piñatas in a state more or less governed by international heroin dealers -- whose idea of a good time is cutting off the heads of their turf rivals and lining them up, in lawn chairs, for everyone at the border to take a nice long, gander at -- I think we’d all be sizing ourselves up for smocks and learning how the milkshake machine works.

Apparently, those 11.1 million folks that “snuck into the country” doesn’t seem to care too much about our politicians underhanded doings from a century ago, nor do they really seem to give much of a shit about our national history of slavery and persecution and mass ethnic cleansing. I mean, hell, the U.S. pretty much TOOK half of their ancestral homeland for itself, and that’s still not enough to make the opportunists down south think twice about hauling asno to the US of A.

In college, I had plenty of professors that hailed from other countries; not just Russia, but myriad Latin America nations, Nigeria, China and Romania, too. They all, assuredly, had their slights against America, but the fact remains that they were all, you know, IN AMERICA as opposed to their homelands. As critical as they may be about domestic U.S. policies and issues, they really can’t skirt the primary issue here; as bad as America’s past and contemporary sins may be, in their eyes, those same trespasses aren’t anywhere near being bad enough for said individuals to stay put in their native lands, where they’re guaranteed to make less money, get hassled around by much more inept governmental bureaucracies and quite possibly get shot in the face for walking down the wrong alley at the wrong time of day. Yeah, the same thing can happen in the States, but the primary difference? Instead of getting mugged on your way to a shanty town abroad, you’re getting mugged en route to your Lexus so you can drive back to your luxury apartment with a full patio and consistent electricity and water you can drink without even thinking about the term “amoebic dysentery.” It seems as if the trade-off for easily accessible roadways, well-stocked grocery stores and tenured pay is MORE THAN ENOUGH to get them to turn their heads about all of that grisly, evil shit the U.S. has done/represents. Well, until the next classroom discussion kicks off, ostensibly.

The fact of the matter is, being bad off in America is still a lot better than being “average” in a good 80 percent of the world. You can be poor in America and still own an air conditioner and an Xbox, while if you’re poor in Nigeria or Indonesia, you’re more or less living by the Law of the Jungle. Sure, social safety nets may be a little bit thicker in Scandinavia (at the expense of 50 percent tax rate, mind you), but compared to most of the planet? The U.S. infrastructure is mighty kindly to the downtrodden, with even the homeless and the imprisoned granted access to amenities and services that most free men in the Third World can only dream about.

Just about every bad thing you can say about the U.S. is pretty tame when compared to the fates of other countries. Yeah, pollution here is bad, but compared to the LITERALLY toxic metropolises erected in Mexico City, coastal China and Russia, even our most smog-filled mega-cities are virtual paradises. The crime rates in Chicago and New Orleans are unquestionably bad, but when compared to the numbers being posted by cities in Honduras and Mexico, they look downright modest.

AMERICA: Where freedom is guaranteed, and taste is merely optional.

Even those old historical nags about the U.S -- slavery and genocide -- are at least equal to the atrocities committed by other nations, if not substantially less horrific compared to the cultural legacies of death and devastation wrought by the Mongols and the Chinese. And while the founders of America are constantly vilified for the seizure of Indian land and employing Africans for slave labor, it’s a little peculiar how nobody ever talks about how the Spanish and the Portuguese wiped out even more indigenous peoples than the colonialists and pioneers in the States, nor the fact that Brazil imported as many -- if not more -- slaves of African descent than the U.S. did.

You'd have to be a real lunkhead to say that racism and classism aren't major contemporary factors in American life, but at the same time, we also have more social mechanisms in place to allot more upward mobility than any other nation out there. Our education system may not be the most affordable on the planet (even though we have the fourth highest tertiary education completion rates in the world, with a per capita GDP that beats the dog shit out of all the other countries in the top ten) but it's certainly accessible to anyone with the desire and basic knowledge to pass the 12th grade. Whether or not you have money doesn't really matter; the government itself will give you loans to get a college degree, which really ought to tell you everything you need to know about the nation's social strata. I know some real poor-ass people that managed to go to college, and now, they're judges and attorneys and shit; if you're an American, you at least HAVE the option to better your lot in life through education, which is a luxury I really can't say is the norm for most peoples on the planet. 

Do I even really need to say anything about how much better the quality of life is in America than most other countries? Personal vehicles, electricity and potable water are all so common in the U.S. that they hardly bear mention as social benefits; not a bad little trade-off, seeing as how 12 percent of the planet doesn't have access to clean water, 1.2 billion people don't have access to electricity and only one-tenth of humans on Earth have their own car

The U.S. healthcare system catches a lot of flak, and it should, but it's also pretty damn fair when you look at the sorry state of medical delivery across the globe. In America, at least you CAN get an emergency room bed if you're about to die from a ruptured kidney, and as shitty as Medicaid and Medicare are, they at least get your foot in the door so you CAN receive certain services that may or may not save the lives of your children or grandparents. Public health benefits in mainland China and the Congo, I am afraid, just aren't that reliable.

You know communism is right around the corner when you can only buy 150 bullets on a daily basis...

Everybody rips on the U.S. political system, and while there's no doubt tons of shady going-ons, uh, going on, at least the U.S. government is EFFECTIVE in upholding most of its civic promises (like keeping us free from overseas invaders and insuring that the beef we eat isn't contaminated with horse fat or mind-deteriorating bio-toxins.). The Executive Branch of the United States may be really, really corrupt, but is it corrupt to the same level as, oh say, Zimbabwe? You might want to think about that one for a minute before you spit out your tired "Obama is worse than Hitler" rhetoric. 

America is a country with a problem unparalleled in human history; we have TOO MUCH food as opposed to too little to feed our huddled masses. And with social safeguards like EBT cards out there, it's more or less administratively impossible for an American citizen to involuntarily starve to death. We take that for granted, but seeing as how severe food scarcity is all across the globe, mayhap that one feature alone is enough to vaunt America into the domain of unquestionable excellence. 

You hear a lot about America's immigration policies being severe, but in reality, they're actually a lot more lax than most European countries, and irony of ironies, freakin' Mexico. And, hey what about that absurdly low population density? With so much lebensraum, even the most heavily populated cities in the U.S. are considerably spacious compared to the uber-cramped mega-metropolises in India, Indonesia and the Philippines

Simply put, there isn't a freer country in the world in terms of government-guaranteed expression rights. I don't even have to trudge up just how much more open the press is in America compared to oppressive stank-pots like Russia, Venezuela and Pakistan, but what might surprise you is just how much more expressive freedom Americans have even compared to Westerners in the U.K.,  Canada and even dope-smoke-stained utopias like the Sweden and Portugal. Libel laws are notoriously harsher in England, people have been imprisoned in Canada for "hate speech," and grown-ass adults in Norway aren't even allowed to watch movies like "Nekromantik" or "Ichi the Killer" in their own homes. I mean, shit, you can't even OWN an Atari 2600 in China, for that matter. And some people have the gall to consider us an Orwellian society!

I guess I should also bring up how insanely wealthy the U.S. is, no? For all the talk about our staggering national debt, the fact that the nation's total assets are about 12 times larger seems to be all but ignored by practically everyone (U.S. citizens, included.) Nor do I really need to bring up how the U.S. is a global leader in technology, industry, science and medicine -- and even IF some U.S. conglomerates make profits off exploiting third world labor, those same technologies are allowing said third world workers the ability to climb out of agrarian poverty and become truly global citizens, with a pretty strong likelihood of becoming reasonably well-paid and well-fed urbanites instead of 
starving to death in human-shit smeared alleyways in their late 20s. The United States can rightly be called a hegemonic force, but considering all of the unheralded good the nation has done for the whole of humanity, I think the worst thing you could call us is a benevolent empire (that occasionally has to whoop ass every now and then.) Do you think the world would have ended up a freer, more progressive place had that hegemonic force been Japan, or Germany, or Turkey instead? A quick peek at a 20th century history book ought to be enough to make anybody highly skeptical.


So yes, at the end of the day you can chide the U.S. for its excesses and brutishness -- it's shady military doings, it's incessant political asshattery, its vapid commercialization of EVERYTHING, etc. -- but by that some token? The innumerable American contributions to technology, medicine and even social policy have been enough to transform planet Earth from an ass-backwards, hardly-above-feudalism rat's nest where the average life expectancy was 44 in the world's most advanced kingdoms 100 years ago to a truly interconnected social village today where hunger is at its lowest point in human history and the average life expectancy has almost doubled. If there's something that's improved humanity, an American probably invented it. And if they didn't? Odds are, they perfected it or made it commercially affordable to the masses.

100 years ago, royalty were riding horse and buggies and pooping in the dirt like barnyard animals, and today, villagers in Sub-Saharan African have Twitter accounts. Something truly remarkable happened between then and now, without question. 

And that "something," in case you haven't been paying attention, was called the good old U.S. of A

3 comments:

  1. If you want to defeat the powers that be, you have to become the powers that be.

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  2. It's not that the United States in it of itself is bad, it's the fact the THEY'VE MODELED IT AFTER THE FAILED ROMAN EMPIRE! Why would you intentionally follow in the footsteps of a failed empire? That's like watching several people rob a bank (unsuccessfully) and doing exactly what they did, thinking that "You won't get caught." Oh, yeah, also watch the documentary called 'Hidden Colors'.

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