The Misadventures of Quinxy truths, lies, and everything in between!

26May/120

The Trouble with American Exceptionalism

I absolutely support the idea of promoting exceptionalism, and I am proud of what the US has achieved and continues to achieve, but I am frustrated that the discussion of American Exceptionalism (particularly by the right wing of our political system) seems always so one dimensional.  Exceptionalists want America to be its best, continue to be its best, continue to lead the world.  But lead the world in what?  The exceptionalist talking points usually have to do with technological, ideological, and even military supremacy.  But what about the supremacy of our health, supremacy of our freedoms, supremacy of our happiness?  The Declaration of Independence wisely identifies all three of these as our unalienable rights ("Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.")  Our model for exceptionalism as it exists today doesn't meet our unalienable needs.  It is far too limited in scope.  It requires a holistic revision.

On the matter of life, there is no denying that, ignoring cost, US healthcare is the envy of the world.  We have focused on developing technologies and doing research which has produced results which has no peers.  But that hyper-focus on new machines and new treatments has created a healthcare industry that many Americans can't afford, many Americans struggle to afford, and the remaining Americans pay dearly to afford.  And the question must be asked, does our superior medical prowess and spending translate into more lives saved?  The answer is clearly indisputably, "No."  We're ranked 38th in longevity, and ranked poorly in many other metrics related to overall health and lifespan.  The model of exceptionalism we've adopted and wish to export has us working diligently to create drugs to treat obesity rather than encouraging us to develop the discipline to eat less and exercise more.

On the matter of our freedom we have now legally legitimized invading our citizen's thoughts (with and without court involvement and with and without our knowledge).  Warrantless wiretaps, warrantless analysis of phone and internet data, warrantless seizure and analysis of citizen's encrypted and unencrypted laptops at our nation's borders, warrantless and waranted examination of our web searches, web readings, book purchases and borrowings, etc. all show that this nation has completely lost its passion for liberty.  Freedom is now just a pretty word we emptily use.

And on the matter of happiness, I would argue that our nation has completely lost its way.  Most American happiness is now found at the bottom of a glass, in the unboxing of a new 57" HD TV, in the firing of a virtual gun in a game machine, and in the laughing at a prime time joke told on a major network.  Obviously we still find joy in the more appropriate things as well, such as the enjoyment of our family, pets, nature, religion, etc. but few can argue how very much our happiness has shifted to the fleeting satisfaction of the material, technological, etc.  If one of our national goals really is the pursuit of happiness then we must admit our increasing failure.
I want the world to learn from us, but let us devote ourselves more to the business of getting our own house in order rather than trying to export our distressingly devolving values.

^ Quinxy

5Jul/117

The Dangerously Stupid Minority in America

One thing that has always shocked me is just how ignorant many in America are.  By no means is ignorance unique to America, nor is it necessarily so much higher in the US than it is elsewhere, but with our vast resources and opportunities it feels wholly inexcusable here.

A timely poll just released a few days ago, asking people when the United States of America declared her independence and from whom showed that a shocking number of Americans didn't know.  Only 58% knew the year was 1776 and only 76% knew we became independent from Great Britain.  How is that possible?  Surely it's a combination of a poor educational system, poor parenting, and some seriously absent curiosity on the part of the ignorant.

It reminded me of all the other frightening points of ignorance revealed by polls in recent years, including:

  • 20% of Americans actually believe the Sun revolves around the Earth (source)
  • 20% of Americans in the run up to the last election were convinced Obama was a Muslim.  (source)
  • 41% of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11, years after the war with Iraq began, despite Bush repeatedly acknowledging  no connection (source)
  • 47% of Americans (most of whom are Christian) did not know that Judaism is older than Christianity and Islam (source)
  • 36% of Americans don't know the Amazon is in South America (source)
  • 21% of Americans believe witches/warlocks/sorcerers/etc. are real (source)
  • 51% of Americans don't believe in the Theory of Evolution (with 25% actively disbelieving and the others not answering or being unsure)  (source)

I hate the concept of elitism, the idea that any one person or group of people is "better" than any other and deserves a better life, more resources, more power, etc.  But, faced with the shocking ignorance of a good 20-35% of the US population it's hard not to feel we do ourselves great harm by allowing woefully ignorant people equal rights to guide our collective destiny.  Why shouldn't we require that people demonstrate knowledge of important and related objective truths before allowing a person to vote?  So many of our monumental decisions as a nation are made by voted margins much smaller than this collective of the uninformed.  Clearly denying anyone the right to vote is a dangerous activity, and has been a tool used to deny good people their equal rights (see the poll tax of ages past).  But perhaps one day if our interpretation of democracy is allowed to evolve and reflect the technological achievements we've made, we might be able to engage in a more involved and vibrant democracy where people do not vote once every so many years on people, but daily, weekly, monthly, on the many individual issues which shape our nation.  And perhaps then we can apply reasonable restrictions, allowing all the general right to vote, but restricting the right to vote on specific issues to those who can demonstrate the objective knowledge required to make an informed decision.  I can dream anyway...  and it's fitting for a day when we celebrate the ideas and sacrifices of our forefathers.

^ Quinxy