FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

America, Shed Your Exceptionalism

by BART GRUZALSKI

I’ve never thought of writing an article that might be read as a version of a home movie from trips overseas.  Hopefully these “pictures” will be of interest to readers of CounterPunch.  My wife Marion was invited as a guest of  Mahidol University in Bangkok  to help with the first hospice in Thailand. I tagged, along dusting-off my expertise with grief.

Given our emphases on topics of interest to medical caretakers, we spent most of our time speaking at hospitals, doing workshops for hospitals, and visiting palliative and ICU wards.  We are overwhelmingly impressed with the quality of the medical service for patients.  The public and teaching hospitals in Thailand are comparable or even better than the best hospitals and hospital systems we knew in America:  the Texas Medical Center in Houston and the grand hospitals in Boston and in San Francisco.  The average Thai, from what we’ve seen, gets much better care than the average American. The only place I believe the Thai hospitals lag is in research.   From the view of the patients whom the hospitals serve, that is a positive.  The hospital doesn’t have a split mission.  Physicians don’t get caught up in doing research.

In the USA, a lot of medical “research” uses public moneys to develop drugs that the pharmaceutical industries sell for a financial killing.    It’s a shame no one in the US is looking at this issue—or at least no one except those in the pharmaceutical industry who know they benefit immensely from their hold on the US government and from their influence on mainstream propaganda which does not let this issue come up.  But… back to Thailand.

Given the impressive growing medical services and facilities in Thailand, we might wonder if there are other areas in which America lacks the #1 status our politicians and media try to make us believe.  And yes, there are other eye-opening “pictures” I have to share.

The early pictures come from our living in Ireland for almost five years. The public education system in Ireland puts the US to shame—can you imagine our high school students being required to memorize poems and comment on them intelligently?  That’s part of the high school education in Ireland, even today.  Looking at Irish media, we get news about the whole world, including the rest of Europe.  As people who want to vacation or retire in Europe know, Europe has much to offer that is socially and culturally superior to what we experience in mainstream USA.

While Ireland and Europe were eye-opening, Thailand and  Asia are a total surprise.  We’ve come to realize, both from our Thai hospital experiences and Thai television news (which covers the world) that the US is falling behind in education, in medicine, in industrial innovation, and in caring for its people.  The US still dominates in “brand names” like CocoCola, Starbucks, MacDonalds–but somehow that does not bring up a swelling of national pride.  The USA is the world’s greatest exporter of weapons–hardly a meritorious achievement.   We used to have a lot of “soft power,” the ability to attract and co-opt rather than coerce or buy allegiance with money.  This is the power the US had when JFK was president.  We lost that power and the moral high-ground during the horrific Vietnamese war. After the Vietnam war ended, we began gaining back some of our “beacon on the hill” influence, but we soon lost what little we had re-gained when Clinton began the no-fly zone in Iraq and imposed sanctions which killed between 500,000 and 1.2 million Iraqi children.  The world was well aware of this, as were our leaders, even if most of us were not.   The Iraqi war, the war in Afghanistan, the drone murders–all have put our Founding Fathers’ values of justice, respect for sovereignty, equality, and democracy on a back burner.  Around the world the US propaganda about “democracy” rings hollow.  We have become the most hated and feared nation in the world.

Domestically we know that our nation is not guided by the great values of our Founding Fathers or Abraham Lincoln, but by the interests of the 1% and the Almighty Dollar.  The dollar, re-election, and the 1% are what most of our so-called leaders permit to guide their creation of public policy.   There’s a great book title—“The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.”  I am NOT recommending the book, but the title is worthy of our reflection.

In Thailand we only have had a couple of TV stations that we were able to get in English (if we had a full service, we could have gotten the usual hundreds).  What we have seen is truly astounding.  Japan has pretty much rebuilt after the disasters of the earthquake, tsunami, and the radioactive disaster.  Bangkok, which suffered intense floods about a year ago, has rebuilt.  Yet the effects of Katrina are still experienced in the New Orleans area, people are still in temporary housing, and there are reports that some people still are unable to return to their homes and the rebuilding of homes continues, more than seven years after the hurricane struck.  The slow and uneven (wealthy and corporations first) recovery from  hurricane Sandy’s disruption of the New York region was pitiful.

The USA, which is often called America (how arrogant—as if Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil didn’t exist),  is not #1–except in arms shipments and the number of our own citizens in prisons.   America is just another country and political claims to  exceptionalism, including president Obama’s, are just an excuse for military atrocities overseas under the hoax of spreading democracy and liberty (read: inserting corporations and developing markets).  US voting is so corrupt that one president was elected by the Supreme court and the UN monitored our most recent presidential election. Our own politicians fight like dogs, taking money from corporate interests and making promises to the 99% that they do not keep. Poverty is officially at 15%–that’s almost 50 million people in poverty.  The USA, like China, still executes prisoners, as do Afghanistan, Cuba, Iran,  Iraq, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Yemen.  “Birds of a feather flock together.” This is not a flock that should make us proud.  The flock of nations that does not have capital punishment includes Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bhutan (which uses happiness as the criterion of public policy), Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany,  Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Philippines, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, and even Russia.  It doesn’t get any better when we view US foreign policy, including US torture actions, policies in Iraq, and killing people with drones

The USA could learn from other nations—about becoming more peaceful, supporting those who are poorer, a true universal healthcare system (the public option which the Obama administration and cohorts condemned to oblivion).  We are just another nation and it behoves us and our leaders to begin learning from other nations and cooperating with them.  The continuation of a planet that supports life forms we know them—bears, deer, redwoods, elephants, humans–depends on serious cooperation.  No nation is exceptional—they’re all just governments with people, with land, and with both domestic and foreign public policies.  They all need to cooperate.

No nation is exceptional, including the USA.

Bart Gruzalski a professor emeritus of philosophy from Northeastern University.  He co-edited Value Conflicts in Health Care Delivery and published On The Buddha, as well as On Gandhi.

Weekend Edition
February 12-14, 2016
Andrew Levine
What Next in the War on Clintonism?
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Comedy of Terrors: When in Doubt, Bomb Syria
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh – Anthony A. Gabb
Financial Oligarchy vs. Feudal Aristocracy
Paul Street
When Plan A Meets Plan B: Talking Politics and Revolution with the Green Party’s Jill Stein
Rob Urie
The (Political) Season of Our Discontent
Pepe Escobar
It Takes a Greek to Save Europa
Gerald Sussman
Why Hillary Clinton Spells Democratic Party Defeat
Carol Norris
What Do Hillary’s Women Want? A Psychologist on the Clinton Campaign’s Women’s Club Strategy
Robert Fantina
The U.S. Election: Any Good News for Palestine?
Linda Pentz Gunter
Radioactive Handouts: the Nuclear Subsidies Buried Inside Obama’s “Clean” Energy Budget
Michael Welton
Lenin, Putin and Me
Manuel García, Jr.
Fire in the Hole: Bernie and the Cracks in the Neo-Liberal Lid
Thomas Stephens
The Flint River Lead Poisoning Catastrophe in Historical Perspective
David Rosen
When Trump Confronted a Transgender Beauty
Will Parrish
Cap and Clear-Cut
Victor Grossman
Coming Cutthroats and Parting Pirates
Ben Terrall
Raw Deals: Challenging the Sharing Economy
David Yearsley
Beyoncé’s Super Bowl Formation: Form-Fitting Uniforms of Revolution and Commerce
David Mattson
Divvying Up the Dead: Grizzly Bears in a Post-ESA World
Matthew Stevenson
Confessions of a Primary Insider
Jeff Mackler
Friedrichs v. U.S. Public Employee Unions
Franklin Lamb
Notes From Tehran: Trump, the Iranian Elections and the End of Sanctions
Pete Dolack
More Unemployment and Less Security
Christopher Brauchli
The Cruzifiction of Michael Wayne Haley
Bill Quigley
Law on the Margins: a Profile of Social Justice Lawyer Chaumtoli Huq
Uri Avnery
A Lady With a Smile
Katja Kipping
The Opposite of Transparency: What I Didn’t Read in the TIPP Reading Room
B. R. Gowani
Hellish Woman: ISIS’s Granny Endorses Hillary
Kent Paterson
The Futures of Whales and Humans in Mexico
James Heddle
Why the Current Nuclear Showdown in California Should Matter to You
Michael Howard
Hollywood’s Grotesque Animal Abuse
Steven Gorelick
Branding Tradition: a Bittersweet Tale of Capitalism at Work
Nozomi Hayase
Assange’s UN Victory and Redemption of the West
Patrick Bond
World Bank Punches South Africa’s Poor, by Ignoring the Rich
Mel Gurtov
Is US-Russia Engagement Still Possible?
Dan Bacher
Governor Jerry Brown Receives Cold, Dead Fish Award Four Years In A Row
Wolfgang Lieberknecht
Fighting and Protecting Refugees
Jennifer Matsui
Doglegs, An Unforgettable Film
Soud Sharabani
Israeli Myths: An Interview with Ramzy Baroud
Terry Simons
Bernie? Why Not?
Missy Comley Beattie
When Thoughtful People Think Illogically
Christy Rodgers
Everywhere is War: Luke Mogelson’s These Heroic, Happy Dead: Stories
Ron Jacobs
Springsteen: Rockin’ the House in Albany, NY
Barbara Nimri Aziz
“The Martian”: This Heroism is for Chinese Viewers Too
Charles R. Larson
No Brainers: When Hitler Took Cocaine and Lenin Lost His Brain
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail