I’m so tired of abject morons always droning on about “American Exceptionalism,” I actually want to barf every time I hear it. Do you know what we’re exceptional at? We are amazing at talking about our incredible greatness at a time when we do pretty much nothing great as a country.
Oh, we used to, but really… what have we done lately that makes us so “exceptional”?
Well, we are just about the only major industrialized democratic nation with a death penalty, so I suppose that “exceptional,” in a way. And we’re only about a century behind when it comes to making sure everyone has the right to see a doctor without being driven to the poor house. We’re also just about the only major industrialized democratic nation in the world that pays tribute to the fetus while ignoring the child once it’s born. For that matter, we’re the only such nation to not require employers to pay a living wage and then treat the resultant poor as if they’ve committed a crime. I suppose those make us “exceptional.”
But is being “exceptional” in those ways really something to be proud of?
I mean, if we’re going to refer to ourselves with terms like “American Exceptionalism,” wouldn’t it be less embarrassing if we actually strived to be exceptional at something worthwhile? Instead, we pay ourselves on the back and tell ourselves how great we are, when we’re largely living off the successes of past generations. We’re still the richest country in the world, but most of our wealth was created in the last century, and a lot of the wealth we create these days is imaginary. We seem almost afraid to do something innovative or special anymore, whereas we used to be the country everyone in the world went to for leadership.
Most of the problem is that, over the last 35 years our politics has been dominated by the Republican right wing mindset that all government spending is waste and a lost opportunity. For some reason, we as a country have been brainwashed into believing that reducing spending on programs that actually bring a decent return is how you reduce deficits. The only things they will happily spend money on include weapons we’ll never use and tax cuts for billionaires. Now, weapons systems do bring a return, in the form of jobs, but so would spending the same amount of money on things we need, like roads and bridges and mass transit. Look at their latest budget proposal; they restore every cut made to the military budget and even give the Pentagon more weapons than they want, at the same time they want to make huge cuts to such programs as Food Stamps, welfare, Medicaid and Medicare. They balk at continuing to fund highways, even as bridges are collapsing and roads have so many potholes that millions of our cars need billions in repairs every year.
What is wrong with us? You know that money they should be spending on the things we all need? That’s our money. OURS, not theirs. For that matter, the country is also ours, and not theirs. The country also doesn’t belong to rich people, and they need to start paying their fair share of taxes, but that’s another article for another day.
The thing is, making this country great again just needs investment. As I said, we are the richest country in the world, so all of this talk about us not having the money is just so much drivel. We have plenty of money; we’re not broke at all.
So, why aren’t we doing more to make us great again? Like what, you ask? How about these:
Why aren’t we investing in an energy infrastructure that is second to none, and seriously reducing our dependence on fossil fuels? We’re eventually going to have to do that anyway, because we’ll eventually run out of oil that we can access easily. Why should we wait until the price of doing this goes even higher, or until other countries are way ahead of us on this. And just as a clue, China has been ahead of us on cutting vehicle emissions and employing solar and wind energy for at least a decade. We used to be leaders at things like this. And before you feel sorry for the oil industry, think a little. If you imagine ExxonMobil won’t have a hand in an energy infrastructure where they don’t have to drill for oil, you have less imagination than they do. If we opush solar and wind, I guarantee the oil companies will jump on board and figure out how to make a profit.
In a related matter, why aren’t we getting our shit together and building out the best electrical grid in the world? We should have done that years ago, anyway, but here we arem with the most vulnerable energy apparatus in the world. We’re eventually going to need it; there’s no denying that, so why wait?
Why did we stop exploring space? It’s like we went to the moon and decided that was far enough. We built a space shuttle that was hopelessly outdated within a decade, and we worked with other countries to build a single small space station. It wasn’t until Barack Obama became president that we saw anyone even try to revive the space program, and Republicans have tried to starve it ever since.
And before you scream about “feeding people here first,” I’ll remind you that the original NASA budget was never wasted, because it led to the development of a number of technologies that we take for granted these days, including the computers and Internet we use every day. In order to send people to Mars and beyond, we will have to solve a number of problems that may help us deal with problems here on Earth. For example, we’ll have to figure out ways to make sure the people on the trip into space have enough food and water for the trip, which likely means learning how to grow and harvest food in space and how to reproduce the water cycle on the trip as well. If we can figure out how to do those things in space, we should be able to do the same here on Earth, which means we’ll be able to alleviate hunger in more places and provide dry places with more water. How is alleviating hunger and thirst a bad thing?
Why are we screaming at poor people, rather than making sure they’re cared for? Once more, we’re the richest country in the world, so there is absolutely no excuse for extreme poverty in the United States. More importantly, why are we so into shaming the poor and trying so hard to make them even more poor? Have you seen the way people look at customers in the supermarket who scan an EBT card?
For that matter, why aren’t we making sure that everyone who works makes enough to pay the bills? It used to be that one member of a family working 40-50 hours a week at minimum wage made enough to pay the rent, utilities and food, and some even owned a home and paid a mortgage. Now, it takes two people working 2-3 jobs each at minimum wage just to afford a place to live and basic food. There is no way that’s right. If Businesses can’t afford to pay a living wage to workers, they shouldn’t be in business. I mean, there are people working for large retail companies who are getting Food Stamps and Medicaid, even as the company is paying out billions of dollars to the family that owns most of their stock.
This is the United States of America, people; we need to stop talking about “exceptionalism” and actually start living it.