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May 13, 2005

The Myth of America – Reality Series, Part IV

In much of what I’ve been writing about in talking about the value of living in a reality-based world, I’ve portrayed the issue as being very different depending on whether we have blinders on or not. And it is.  And mostly I think that what sets the folks on the liberal side apart is that we have fewer blinders on.  Partly that’s because blinders tend to be brushed off when a Party is losing and we’ve been getting our butts kicked pretty regularly for the last 10 years.  Partly it’s because liberals have genuinely taken the time to notice what goes on for folks more than Republicans generally do and certainly more than the power hungry, corporate enablers that constitute the current crop of Republicans do.   

But when I think about our unquestioned assumptions about this country, I think we all have a pretty big set of blinders on.  We pretty much think that we're tops in everything from culture to sports to economy to governance.  In our case, we tend to think that the world has rightly taken a whack at us recently, in these last four years since Bush came into office.  And that is certainly true.  But statistics like these compiled by Michael Ventura and posted on the Information Clearing House don’t arise all of a sudden.   

Here are a couple examples.  According to an article in the Dec. 12, 2004 New York Times, the United States is 49th in the world in literacy.  According to a report on CNN on Dec. 10th, 2004, one-third of all U.S. children are born out of wedlock and one-half of all U.S. children will live in a one-parent house.

We were so raised on the idea that America is central to the world, that we are the best at damned near everything, and that we pretty much set the standards for the world.  If these statistics are true, and the sourcing would tell me they are, we are no where near that.  Then what are we?  Are we truly a nation losing our edge in the world?  Are we too self-absorbed and taken up with sports and the twinned arms of sexual exploitation and sexual repression and our “ownership society” to notice what the reality is?  Are we too busy squandering our money and national human resources on fighting a series of wars across the globe rather than building a society here that we can be proud of?

Difficult questions but ones that we probably need to address.  We have to see the reality in order to be able to think about what we want to do about it.  Here’s another statistic.  From Jeremy Rifkin’s new book, The European Dream: How Europe’s Vision of the Future is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream,  “Of the 20 most developed countries in the world, the U.S. was dead last in the growth rate of total compensation to its workforce in the 1980s” or CNN’s nugget on Jan. 12, 2005, that the United States lost 1.3 million jobs to China in the last decade. 

Maybe the new Democratic Party can be the party of reality.  We can become courageous enough to take even our own blinders off and see what the world really looks like and talk about it and make some changes based on what is really going on out there. 

A hat tip to the irrepressible Jack Smith for sending these stats on to me.

Posted by Lynn Allen on May 13, 2005 at 07:50 AM in Miscellany | Permalink


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