Thursday, September 17, 2009

Can the best country in the universe be improved?

Do Americans have a "national perfection" complex? 

Obama has a difficult job.  How can a mere politician significantly improve a country that's almost perfect?

One day -- this  was ten years ago -- an African American lady lectured me for almost an hour about  the greatness of America (relative to the rest of the world). She told me that in America people enjoy things that foreigners don't have.   I asked for an example.

"Like freedom," she said.

Few Americans seem to realize just how good many people have it in other countries.  Probably because they don't get around much.  Only about one in five Americans carries a passport.  Few Americans speak a foreign language.  Many are "geography challenged" -- as one map that recently appeared on Fox News testifies (right).

Perhaps the metaphor that best describes the mindset of "the Fox News viewing herd" is the woman who continues living with the abusive man, but refuses to leave the relationship, no matter how bad things seem to get.  Abuse is all the woman has ever known. Likewise, when it comes to the health care reform debate,  a surprisingly large number of Americans seem content to remain in abusive -- or potentially abusive -- relationships with their current health insurance company. 

The other day, Roger Cohen, a correspondent living in France, summed up why foreign systems are better. He wrote, "The American health system is an insidious stress-multiplier whose hassles, big and small, permeate already harried lives."

I agree.  All the other health care systems I know are less stressful.  (In addition to the American system, I have some personal acquaintance with the health care systems in six developed countries).   All of the other systems seemed easier to cope with. (Singapore's system impressed me the most.) In the US, all the paper they keep sending you becomes a psychological burden --  you don't want to look at it!

In this entertaining video about health care, one of the singers asks President Obama:
Why do you want to change the way things work when Jesus Christ said we're the best country in the universe?  

I came across the video on James Fallows' blog.  Fallows has been waging a tireless campaign against overuse of the "God bless America!" phrase in political speeches (it's featured in the video).  You can read Fallow's thoughts on "God bless America" here, and here, and here.


  1. I can understand that American chauvinism can be irritating, especially ignorant chauvinism, just as it is irritating to hear from any person in any country. But hearing "God Bless America" has always been just empty words to this Reagan-era baby. It has been mouthed by god-fearing patriots and blaspheming criminals alike, and so has simply lost any connotation for me - except maybe to say "he's done now." It isn't good, it isn't bad, it, in my mind, simply is. So I'm curious as to why this bugs you and Mr. Fallows so much. Am I missing something?

  2. '(T)rite hackneyed vacuous portento-pious lazy...' -- I defer to Fallows, an authority on the subject.

    Especially, see this post (and accompanying back-links):

  3. I argue Duhmerica must fail. The sooner the better. I'm old and it will do so in my lifetime.


Because all comments on this blog are moderated, there will be some delay before your comment is approved.