Editorial Comment

U.S. is number one


July the Fourth is Independence Day in the United States. The nation has been one of the most ambitious experiments in democracy in the history of civilization. The project, so far, appears to have been a roaring success since, as everyone knows, ‘America is Number One!’ Just ask them. They will tell you… at length. 
It’s no surprise many impoverished around the globe look upon the country with a mixture of both hope and resentment. Those nations in their peer groups; the G20 states and the OAS, the country that calls itself ‘America’, despite being just one of 35 nations in The Americas, is often viewed as a bundle of dichotomies.
I am not an American basher. I admire many things about that country and assume the warm-hearted people I’ve met from many different states are fair representation of the general population. The overwhelming majority are extremely generous, both as individuals and, as a nation. Copious studies rating the generosity of nations all vary to a degree, so it’s impossible to say if the US is the most generous in the world but, along with Canada, is always in the top five no matter how it is measured. When disaster strikes around the world, they are always, without fail, one of the first to offer aid, irrespective of the politics of the devastated region. Though their aid isn’t always welcomed is irrelevant. It is always offered.
This is why it’s so incomprehensible they are the only nation in the G20 not to have universal health care. From conservative Germany to the left leaning Scandinavia, the concept that health care is a right, is the norm. Wanting to help our sick fellow citizens without bankrupting them comes naturally to us and having supports in place is a huge comfort.  
It’s not like their system saves money. According to data supplied by the influential Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development in 2010, The United States spend about 50% more on health care than its next closest competitor, which is Switzerland; $6,500.00 on average per Amercan compared to $4,000.00 for the Swiss. Canada came in at just below $3,500.00 to rank third. Japan ranked lowest of the G8 at $2,500.00. 
It appears providing universal health care costs less than the US model, but it also covers all of your citizens. A devastating illness doesn’t rob people of their life’s savings and make them wards of the state as can happen in America.
Another seeming oddity about American society is that they espouse themselves to be the most freedom loving nation on earth.  Still, it seems their governments want to legislate their freedoms away for little purpose other than ideological dogma. Witness the fury over gay marriage. Is it really worth all this fuss? Is it really such a big deal that elections are fought over it when economic factors should be their focus? 
For people who believe themselves to be the bastion of freedom, it is certainly a head scratcher when we see Janet Jackson’s nipple-slip being such a cause célèbre. It even went to the Supreme Court as to who will be recompensed for the damaged to the sullied reputations of the league, the network and the event planner.  Their concept of modesty is incredibly strict compared to other nations. Nudity is commonplace and unremarkable on European TV. I have personally witnessed a laundry soap television advertisement in Germany, featuring the image of a naked woman swimming leisurely in a sunlit lagoon. It was crisply photographed full frontal nudity to sell soap flakes and this was back in 1976. Apparently, even we Canadians have a ways to go on that front.
Compare that, however, to the gratuitous violence that is endemic in the US entertainment world. You can’t legally go watch a sex show but you can go watch two men beat the tar out of one another. 
Between UFC and Mixed Martial Arts, there’s no shortage of extreme blood sports in their media.
You can show a guy murdering and dismembering a woman’s body with slow motion graphics to highlight the penetration of the foreign objects into the flesh, a la CSI; Miami, just as long as you don’t show her boob. 
The religious right wouldn’t stand for it. Start letting boobs be seen on TV and then next thing you know, gay guys are going to want to marry one another. One might think more boobs on the tube might be seen by the fundamentalists as being on ‘their side’ however, that does not appear to be the case.
Another American eccentricity that is wondered at by its friends and allies is it’s penchant for boastfulness about their country. ‘We’re Number One’ is repeated by its denizens like a mantra without any qualification whatsoever. The fact is, America is, number one in some areas, particularly military might, economic clout, and one could even argue, international influence. In numerous other areas, they are number one but in far more sinister categories; violent crime statistics, murder rates, and incarceration numbers per population are just a few examples. In some areas, Americans are far from number one and that includes such important metrics as educational achievement, longevity of its citizens, and even their credit rating.
What that boasting about being number one does, besides make them look arrogant on the world stage, is to brainwash their citizens into believing  they don’t need to do better in some areas. Why improve, after all, if you’re already number one?
It will be interesting to observe how well the American psyche will handle the reality that China is quickly overtaking the US in both economic might and world influence. I suspect they will continue to chant their mantra; it’s just that they would have even less reason to do so than they do currently.

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