Friday, October 17, 2008
America Isn't #1...
Love him or hate him...I can't deny that a lot of what Bill Maher says in this video is some reality one would like to hear in a political stump speech. I'm not sure where all his data comes from, but the points regarding where our country falls behind are true.
When he talks about the growing inability for "getting things done"...our inability to get Iraq under wraps, our inability to "get" Bin Laden, and our initializing the current global financial collapse...it's pretty hard to maintain our smugness on "greatness".
More appropriately, we need to recognize we have GREAT problems. Covering up our problems and growing ineptness does not contribute to turning things around...and just claiming ignorance and counting on current national leadership to pull us out of the downward spiral doesn't cut it anymore. If we cherish the American dream we grew up with and the freedoms that portends, it is time for each of us to speak up instead of just listening to the constant ramblings of nefarious politicians! Otherwise, we will just follow the herd of “sheeple” over the cliff of mass manipulation.
It is time to reawaken that American spirit of "can do" with integrity and honor. It is time to get off our soft pillows of self indulgence and complacency. It is time for each of us to get our hands dirty by participating in the public discourse. It is time to truly live up to those challenging words of John F Kennedy when he said, "ask not what your country can do for you...ask what YOU can do for your country". And by that I don’t think he meant to blindly follow your government to unwinnable or undeclared wars to the death. I interpret the challenge as doing what you can INSIDE your borders to better our country and influence positively it's ideals. He primarily meant activities like the PEACE CORP and community support organizations.
I have had a few people over the past few years challenge me about how I can talk or write about America's issues or politics when I haven't lived there for over 6 years. How can you be patriotic while living outside the USA? For those that raise that question I have forthrightly answered that it is easier to get a realistic view of the country and its culture from outside than it is caught up in the middle of it on a daily/hourly basis. I think Americans and their ideals stand out more outside the borders of our country. I also have experienced that you don’t appreciate the whole essence of American ideals, proficiency and accomplishment until you live in countries that don't have those ideals. America's free and capitalistic roots are what have driven the ingenuity and productivity that made us the great powerhouse economically and otherwise that it was. Unfortunately we have taught many other nations and cultures our ways too well, and some of them are kicking our butts when it comes to production and wealth creation. You won't see this unless you get out of your backyard in America once in a while. It has come to the point where it is easier to compete in less regulated markets and keep more of your profits in foreign counties than to operate domestically in the USA. You can thank high taxes and government regulations/manipulations for those contemporary realities.
Strangely enough, our political "leaders" continue to try and paint foreign corporations, competition and trade as unpatriotic or worse. My personal opinion is that America's competitive ideals are BEST demonstrated in foreign markets...and we need to be sharing our values and ideals OUTSIDE our country in order to bring peace, understanding and COMMERCE to the global arena. Getting outside our borders and interacting with the world in trade and commerce is to me the greatest plan of national defence we can foster. We need to export more forcefully our rule of law (albeit not all our ridiculous Tort laws that help tear down our gains) and continue building free and fair trade alliances...driven by private enterprises and American individuals...not Government manipulations. This would be much more effective than exporting guns and bombs to try and keep a dangerous world "in line".
Does anyone not see where the USA is the largest manufacturer and exporter of weapons to the world? In 2006, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, total worldwide spending on "Defense Budgets" was over $1.1 TRILLION...almost 50% of that was spent and developed by the USA. So one of the few remaining indexes where America is still #1 is in this nefarious development of the world's armaments. We need to do everything we can in my opinion to limit our export of weapons while INCREASING our export of business and peaceful ideals. While it is probably too late to go back to pacifist, Gandhi-like positions because of the many enemies we have, it should be a top priority to control and roll back the armaments industry on a global basis. It will obviously take a world wide effort in diplomacy and verification to do so...but in my opinion, America should lead the way on this one as well. If we don’t, America will continue to be viewed as one of the most hypocritical countries in the history of civilization. We say we want peace and prosperity out one side of our mouth, while we continue to apply force throughout the world through armaments more than dialogue, commerce and diplomacy. To me it comes down to the fact we have put ourselves in a corner just like Bush did with Iraq. We will either build communication and understanding with our enemies, or we will have to someday annihilate them. I don't see any middle ground here. Unfortunately, many leading Americans prefer the short, aggressive annihilation option versus long and tedious negotiations. In light of history, this is very concerning to me.
If there is anything good to come out of our current financial crisis in America and around the globe, hopefully it is a common understanding now among the average "Joes" that our world is inextricably linked together financially. It is currently taking a united world effort to restore confidence in our markets. If and when we succeed to restoring health there, I hope we will use the same process to restore peace on a global basis. America cannot do this alone. We can no longer live in our own little shell of "the American Way" and isolationism. That ideal is no longer viable if only for our country's dependency on foreign oil and our international debts. We can no longer afford "enemies".
I truly hope our next administration of leaders will make America the #1 arbitrager of peace and prosperity, not armaments and war. I am convinced only America can affect this turnaround approach to international conflicts. If we start this new approach, I believe a majority of the world will follow our example. If we have the majority of the world in our corner, we will reign victorious. If we don't we will continue to fall under the weight of our own folly and self indulgence as a nation.