Friday, July 5, 2013

The Fourth of July a Day Later

Some folks are born, made to wave the flag
Ooh, they're red white and blue
John Fogerty

I'm not a big 4th of July guy. When I was growing up I liked the fireworks part of it. Especially during those heady days when parents would allow their children to handle small sticks of live explosives and you could actually blow shit up. Beyond that the rest of it was pretty well lost on me. You know the parades, the guys dressed up in Uncle Sam costumes; all the flag waving and band playing stuff. No, I was never interested in any of that during my youth.

For a long time now I have been struck by the historical importance of the date. It took some real courage to vote for a resolution that was in part brilliant and in total an act of high treason against a vast empire. Indeed, once their names were on the document the members of the continental congress had two options. It was either win the revolution, or take it on the lam to parts unknown. And, although no one really understood it at the time, the moment the declaration was approved the history of the world over the next two hundred plus years changed course radically.

Part of my current problem with the 4th is that I have this terrible aversion to huge crowds gathering in self congratulatory orgies and engaging in mass shows of nationalist hysteria under the guise of patriotism. Throngs of people, almost all of them white, chanting, USA--USA--USA has the feel of fascism run amok. Every time I hear it I have an incredible urge to look around for Leni Riefenstahl and her camera crews. Yes, I can't help but suspect she is out there, somewhere, filming a remake of "Triumph of the Will."

I also have a tough time dealing with people who keep insisting to me that the United States of America is better than every other country in the world at everything when it is clearly not true.

In fact, looking at some readily available stats, the few areas we lead, or come close to the top at, are a bit dubious at best. Like we rank second in the world in out of pocket medical expenses while per capita we're first in total health care costs. We are second in carbon dioxide emissions from energy consumption. We rank sixth globally in assaults, third in automobile accident deaths and seventh in the percentage of divorces.

On the other hand we are 14th when it comes to the graduation rate from four year colleges, 18th in literacy, 29th in science test scores, and we're 49th in life expectancy from the moment of birth. When it comes to all those freedoms we supposedly cherish it seems we are also lacking. We are 57th when gauging an open and free electoral process. When asked if there should be a complete separation between church and state we rank 25th and we're 49th in civil liberties. Of the nations who are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (most of Europe and a few others like Australia, Japan, Mexico, and New Zealand) we're third in the overall rate of poverty and fourth in child poverty.

We own the most guns and the good news is while we're not first in per capita gun deaths, the bad news is that everyone ahead of us is located in Central and South America, or Africa. As of today Slate and @Gun Deaths reports that at least 5,758 Americans have been shot to death since the Newtown, CT murders.

It is a fine and commendable thing to love your country, but don't gloss over what is wrong and pretend it isn't there. While you are running around with your star spangled sun glasses on keep in mind there is a lot to fix in this nation. Luckily, we have it within our means to make the repairs. Hopefully, at some point, we will find the determination to do it.

Now--pass the mustard. My hot dog is getting cold.


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