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.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
Conn Hallinan
The Big Boom: Nukes And NATO
Ron Jacobs
Exacerbate the Split in the Ruling Class
Jill Stein
After US Airstrikes Kill 73 in Syria, It’s Time to End Military Assaults that Breed Terrorism
Jack Rasmus
Trump, Trade and Working Class Discontent
John Feffer
Could a Military Coup Happen Here?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Late Night, Wine-Soaked Thoughts on Trump’s Jeremiad
Andrew Levine
Vice Presidents: What Are They Good For?
Michael Lukas
Law, Order, and the Disciplining of Black Bodies at the Republican National Convention
Victor Grossman
Horror News, This Time From Munich
Margaret Kimberley
Gavin Long’s Last Words
Mark Weisbrot
Confidence and the Degradation of Brazil
Brian Cloughley
Boris Johnson: Britain’s Lying Buffoon
Lawrence Reichard
A Global Crossroad
Kevin Schwartz
Beyond 28 Pages: Saudi Arabia and the West
Charles Pierson
The Courage of Kalyn Chapman James
Michael Brenner
Terrorism Redux
Bruce Lerro
Being Inconvenienced While Minding My Own Business: Liberals and the Social Contract Theory of Violence
Mark Dunbar
The Politics of Jeremy Corbyn
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Why It’s Just Fine for U.S. to Blow Up Children
Binoy Kampmark
Laura Ingraham and Trumpism
Uri Avnery
The Great Rift
Nicholas Buccola
What’s the Matter with What Ted Said?
Aidan O'Brien
Thank Allah for Western Democracy, Despondency and Defeat
Joseph Natoli
The Politics of Crazy and Stupid
Sher Ali Khan
Empirocracy
Nauman Sadiq
A House Divided: Turkey’s Failed Coup Plot
Franklin Lamb
A Roadmap for Lebanon to Grant Civil Rights for Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon
Colin Todhunter
Power and the Bomb: Conducting International Relations with the Threat of Mass Murder
Michael Barker
UK Labour’s Rightwing Select Corporate Lobbyist to Oppose Jeremy Corbyn
Graham Peebles
Brexit, Trump and Lots of Anger
Anhvinh Doanvo
Civilian Deaths, Iraq, Syria, ISIS and Drones
Christopher Brauchli
Kansas and the Phantom Voters
Peter Lee
Gavin Long’s Manifesto and the Politics of “Terrorism”
Missy Comley Beattie
An Alarmingly Ignorant Fuck
Robert Koehler
Volatile America
Adam Vogal
Why Black Lives Matter To Me
Raouf Halaby
It Is Not Plagiarism, Y’all
Rev. Jeff Hood
Deliver Us From Babel
Frances Madeson
Juvenile Life Without Parole, Captured in ‘Natural Life’
Charles R. Larson
Review: Han Kang’s “The Vegetarian”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail