Understanding America today

Although I am not American, understanding USA politics  today is something I am trying to do as it indirectly affects my life.  This is a personal view of one European, who happens to live in a European country bombed by USA at the very brink of 21st centruy.

I realized that there is nothing I can hold against American people as such. Yes they did vote up a president whom even they laughed at (Bush), and the one who actually decided to bomb my country based on the excuse of moral values was thrown out of White House for a humiliating sex affair (Clinton). Yes it is the country with the highest crime rate and the lowest life expectancy in the industrial world that paradoxically likes to teach others how to uphold law and live healthy.

Life expectancy of USA picture

Life-expectancy in the USA is less than most other advanced nations

But over time I have realized that the American people are very good people. Take it down to the hard-working, tradition-loving, ordinary family man and I have seen displays of solidarity and care that you can hardly find in Europe. The traditional American family relies on really solid, morale and humane values which is something the rest of the world can look up to.

It is country with spectacular nature, and a nation that made humans proud by sending people to the Moon and spaceships out of our Solar system.

But unfortunately, they have one big problem - Money thriving desires of the rich.

Surely this problem exists in all countries in the world, as rich people are not exclusive to US. But the fact is that majority of richest corporations in the world are based in US which makes the country much, much more susceptible to that very problem.

The biggest issue in such strong, money driven, modern society is that it's extremely hard to change. For example, USA is the only country in the industrialized world which does not have universal health care (although the previous president came to White House on promises to create it). It means that the US health system is instead driven by health insurance corporations and you may (will) be denied medical care if you do not have money to cover your expenses.

Health spending USA picture

Despite lower life expectancy then other nations, US citizens spend more for health care

Implication being that in USA a person's wealth is more important then their health, which is unheard of in the rest of the world. Even Canada, Americas nearest neighbor and a biggest ally in many regards, has a universal health care system which provides medical care for everyone, regardless of their earnings or lack of.

Second problem young Americans face is the structure of the education system. Unlike the rest of the world where education is free or at least the expenses are shared with government, Americans learn to live with debt at a very young age due to student loans. They take living with debt as granted, unfortunately that's not how it needs to be or how rest of the world works.

Take an example of France as an extreme counter-point. It is a country with highly developed social structures and health and education systems that mirror that. Medical services and education are available to every citizen. This produces a healthy nation that, in spite many of vices like vine, cigars and strong food, lives on average considerably longer then Americans.

It also produces a very educated nation, self-aware, social-aware and politically-aware nation. As a result of this, France is a country where massive social protests and protest against government are a common thing. This is a true demonstration of democracy as it should be - in the hands of people.

College education learning should be free picture

University education should be available to everyone

Let's get back to US. One thing that seems obvious to me is that an un-healthy, un-educated and a nation deep in debt is a nation that is more easily ruled by those in power. An average citizen is so deeply concerned with their own problems, they do not have the strength nor time to take it to the government. And this in my opinion is the heart of the problem of today's America.

I do not say that the society system of America was invented with this purpose, purpose of ruling the people so similarly to middle-ages. But as more I think about it, I conclude this has to be the reason why the system does not change anymore today. Obviously if you have a bad system, you would change it. But not in US. It suits some  to stay that way. Others are mostly sold on a dream.

Is there hope for America? I truly think there is. The ordinary American man is a good-hearted and caring person as anyone and I can see the tremendous power of over 300 million minds changing the way the nation is governed to remain true with the core values the very nation was built on.

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  1. Jun 7th, 2011 11:23 PM

    We certainly have our problems. Many of those problems might very well be a result of the greedy rich as you say.

    I think a bigger reason for the problems though is our unwillingness to take advantage of the democratic opportunity we have been given and to let our voice be heard. On average, and I'm not looking up the exact numbers here, less than half our population participates in the national elections. Far fewer than that participate in regional elections. We are not taking the time to let our politicians know what it is that we really want. Instead, it is the noisy few running things.

    • Jun 7th, 2011 11:49 PM

      Smith- Sure in principle that's true. in Principle, we have the numbers. And if we did what they did in Cairo, we could do it. But that won't happen. We'll have to lose even more before people will be riled out of their somnambulism, and even then, they'll run helter-skelter in all political directions.

      Estoy indignado! I'm sure a lot of Americans would agree with me when I say I am sick and tired of asshole politicians having to be bombarded with emails and phone calls and campaigns and petitions and street demonstrations in order to get them to do the right thing for the people and the land. What exactly is it that constitutes their resistance to doing what is needed and right to assure prosperity and the good life? Stupidity, short-sightedness, abject craven greed, dishonesty, arrogance, small-mindedness... Enough!!
      We want our representatives to be doing their job, which we pay them for, and that is to see to our well-being as a society. If we have to continuously brow-beat them into doing the right thing, usually without success, then you know what? They should all be fired.


      • Jun 8th, 2011 7:57 AM

        So Stephen, I guess you are saying things have not changed a lot on the ground with the current president?

        • Jun 8th, 2011 7:33 PM

          Hi Vlad, Yes I think that's true, and it's what is bothering Obama voters most... there seems to be way too much continuity with the Bush years. As concerns Empire, Economy, Justice, and Energy, can't say much has changed, and this gives the impression Obama is on a little spotlit stage with his close advisors (guards?) in the middle of a theater full of darkened surging forces which pay no attention to him and have their own swirling agendas... the main one being the looting of American wealth- of the commons, and that of the other 99%.
          It's eerie. And Obama-ites are I think taken aback and confused by it. For example, there is a lot of head-scratching and wondering why exactly this is happening. The most common theories are 1) Obama is the kind of guy that succeeds by winning others over through his intelligence and charm, not through confrontation, and the GOP has not been playing along; 2) He'd like to do more but can't given the power structures in Washington- these people hope he will do what we hoped he would once the GOP gets trounced in 2012 and gives him a Democratic congress; 3) he's been threatened with assassination, or his kids have been threatened, if he steps out of line; 4) For Obama and much of his elitist support, just getting elected as a 'black' man was enough- a big change in appearance and image- and from then on he should just mange the existing power structures so that the people accept them more than they did under Bush; 5) A corporatocracy completed a thorough coup d'etat during the Bush years which was begun under Reagan and Clinton. The elections, the whole democracy, is now an empty farce. Obama wittingly or unwittingly, was the perfect candidate from the more modernized wing of this corporatocracy- financial services, pharmaceuticals, telecomms, etc- rather than the Bush crew of oil and gas and war profiteers; Obama is perfect because (a) his personal gifts make him a good manager- arbiter of sometimes conflicting interests of the corporate syndicates which make up the corporatocracy- as he did so remarkably at the Harvard Law Review; (b) as a candidate he represents the Benetton branding strategy- smart, hip, young, multicolored, very likeable, and very sell-able.
          I personally think there may be truth to all of these hypotheses, but I think the last one, number 5, is probably the most accurate. See for example Chris hedges recent talks on Youtube regarding his book "The Death of the Liberal Class"
          Tomorrow I'm meeting with representatives of the Obama 2012 campaign with a few friends to talk over some of our concerns, and outline ways that Obama could send a signal to his disaffected supporters that the above hypothesis number 2 is the correct one. If indeed it is .
          Otherwise, I don't see where the path ahead is. I can't imagine Americans pouring out in the public squares by the thousands like in Cairo or now Madrid and Athens. That's what's needed, but the brainwashing and mind-scrambling has been so pervasive for so long I doubt that can happen. See for example Adam Curtis's brilliant documentaries "The Century of the Self", "The Trap", and "The Power of Nightmares".
          OK, back to work now- best regards-

  2. Andrew
    Nov 7th, 2009 9:55 AM

    most other countries are police states, BY COMPARISON to america.

    and they have much less crime.


    • Jun 7th, 2011 11:59 PM

      Most other countries are police states by comparison? Really? Certainly not true of Europe and South America; Asia I guess could be argued, and Africa I don't know much about. But if you are bringing up this meme to excuse more and more rampant police abuses in the US then I think you are really missing the point- for it's not by congratulating ourselves on being better than the worst alternative that we will progress in the full measure of our potential.

  3. McDoogle
    Oct 9th, 2009 4:34 PM

    Vlad, I see that you are trying to do the right thing, but the ordinary Americans are just as much of the problem as the "money thriving rich."
    Here it is important to appear "hard-working" and much of America's energy is wasted when they do work because they don't understand quality. Mostly, Americans work really hard at avoiding any responsibility or physical labor, even when they have to. The workplace is also the prime "social scene" for Americans so they are not really interested in progress as much as social stability.
    Family values are a joke here. Families cannot remain intact here because people don't appreciate other people much here. They are narcissistic and people are more like playthings that can get boring.
    With education, it's pretty much free here, but every American thinks they either know everything or that they won't need to know anything so they absolutely resist any attempts at education.
    So we have problems. Problems are not normally the end of the world, but Americans hate problems and refuse to deal with them. In fact they spend lots of energy avoiding problems rather than fixing them.
    Truly Vlad, I hate it here. I'm a living creature stuck in a mass grave of rotten putrified corpses that refuse to live a normal life.

  4. Mar 28th, 2009 4:21 PM

    And how is Obama not "too much government"? The Federal government is about to be more involved in your life than ever before.

  5. Tom
    Mar 28th, 2009 4:18 PM

    Well....My European friend I never respond to posts, but you got my attention today. First I must tell you that societies built upon allowing people to immigrate are not meant to be completely understood by residents of those who either restrict entry or for other reasons cause people to want to leave. I make this statement without specific reference to your country or any other...I simply mean, "Melting Pots" like the USA, have a much greater challenge in managing the "Massive and Increasingly Massively Different" points of view that define the American experience. But prior to the election of Obama there was general agreement on one thing...Too Much Government is a very Bad thing!

    I respect our "Diversity" and have always believed it was a competitive advantage because it was the strong from other countries who sought out our shores, but as the world has gotten smaller that is too often no longer the case....Excessive Immigration, particulary when it's illegal, dilutes us to the point where even we find ourselves difficult to understand. Americans have "Big Hearts" and we love to help others....but we need to help them where they are because we can no longer afford to help them here. Sounds a tad "Cold" I suppose, but that's only because so many other countries create conditions that cause their people want leave.

    On the subject of Life Expectancy....I caution you against using Life Expectancy alone key in measuring a Country's Healthcare System. I'm very familiar with this subject and can tell you it can vary considerably within a given County's own borders...In the USA it can Even vary considerably within the Counties of our States and there are many variables that must be considered, including "Race."

    The Japanese have the longest Life Expectancy in the World if your measurement is based upon a country having an acceptable population size to measure it....On the surface it would appear that their "System" is superior to ours, but if that were true then the large number of Japanese who immigrate to America, while still having meaning years of life left, would tend to shorten their Life Expectancies living here. Not so...They live considerably longer here than in Japan, especially women.

    This is True for many other cultures as well...The most obvious being the Mexicans. It's not surprising Mexicans would live longer in America than Mexico, but it is "Very Surprising" how rapidly the evidence is growing that once here they are even outliving "Us."

    Don't get me wrong my friend...We have plenty of problems here and it appears they'll get worse before they get better. It also appears we may "Pull In Our Horns" a bit, especially on the outsourcing of Jobs front....That would be good for us, but my guess is not so good for you. If you want to understand "Real Americans," the ones who grew up here not just "Showed Up," attempting to understand those dynamics would be a good place to start...And you're on the right track when you mention Education.

    I do business all over the World....I'm not an expert on other cultures, but the fact that I employ many people who live outside the USA at least gives me some perspective on how they're educated. You are correct when you say our Educational System falls short of others in many ways....I normally think of our deficencies in terms of "Technical Knowledge," but I respect and agree with your point about reading a Map. We also fail miserably with literature and the Arts....All of which puts us at a disadvantage when it comes to "Academic Competition." But a strange thing happens within the mind of an "Educated American" after he leaves "School," suddenly he is Very, Very Smart compared to his contemporaries in other parts of the World....Even Technically!

    For what it's worth here's the difference in my View....Living in America is itself an Educational experience because we have so many choices to make from the day we can "Walk and Talk" and those "Choices" are undiminished by the "Wealth of our Parents. Frankly many of our "Best and Brightest" don't come from wealthy families...which often "Fuels" the American Spirit" because so many of those choices go unfulfilled we tend to try harder. Before you begin thinking I'm equating even Education to the acquistion of material "Things" consider this....The Choices that confront us early in Life turn into the "Decisions" we make later and I can tell you it is this ability to contemplate and judge the "Hypothesis" that flows through our Education Model that sets us apart...American creativity and Ingenuity is built in.

    Now for the important "Stuff"....I love the Global Economy and I adore the people in it. I wouldn't trade several my foreign contemporaries and employees for 10 Americans....and here is a really "Scary" thought. I haven't even met 2 of my Armenian Web Developers, we met online, and I trust them more than anyone else in my organization. I respect them more too and one of the things I respect most about them is how much they love their Country. They love Armenia so much...I have fallen in love with it too and I've never been there!

    So....I hope to travel more in the years to come and I'm hopeful the countries I visit remain as "Distinctive" as they are in my "Minds Eye." All countries make a contribution to the World we live in and while we need to cooperate more and increase our understanding of each other...it is the differences between us that provide the "Stimulation" we need to want to know more.

    Here's One Final thought for your incredibly fertile "Foreign Mind"....A mind that in many ways is far superior to my own!

    There are 2 Basic ways to "Think"....The first is Convergent Thinking which is the process you go thru when you are seeking "The Answer" to the challenges you face...It is the kind of Thinking one often does in school or when taking a Test.

    The other basic way to Think is "Divergent Thinking"....When you think Divergently you are seeking "Multiple Answers" to the problem. Remember those "Choices" I mentioned earlier, it is thru Divergent Thinking that they can be found. It is thru Divergent Thinking that you gain access to your Creativity...Which is the highest form of Intellect in my humble opinion. But it is even more valuable when you consider how it enhances your ability to address the many mistakes we all make....Having more than one way to resolve difficult issues improves your ability to learn from your mistakes. And when you learn that you'll understand why "Questions are more important than Answers"...which will assist you in understanding Americans, not all of us by any means, but the ones you'd probably like to meet!

    Sorry I rambled on...but I enjoyed it and I wish you well!

    TL (Unedited)

  6. M.
    Nov 26th, 2008 3:35 AM

    You said-

    Take it down to a hard-working, tradition-loving ordinary man and I have seen displays of solidarity and care that you can hardly find in Europe. The traditional American family relies on really solid, morale and humane values which is something the rest of the world can look up to. And it is a very beautiful country and a gifted nation, nation that sent humans to the Moon and spaceships out of our Solar system.

    I respond:
    It is not clear at all, that increases in socialism in a country may not severely damage such value sets. You criticise the US for not operating the 14% of its economy which is health care via the national government, but without clear understanding of consequences.

  7. Lewis
    Jun 2nd, 2008 6:29 PM

    Hi Lori and Vladimir,

    I am also a very "regular" American, from Berkeley, California. I ride my bike to work, don't eat meat, and am married to a wonderful man. I have also lived in Europe, where -- in my personal experience -- the government health care was unbelievably superior to any private health care treatment I've received in the US. I think most Americans would jump at government-managed care if only the information could be presented well.

    Your anecdote about Universal Health care in your location in Europe was sad and sounds frustrating, but I wonder how representative it is. Are you really saying Europeans should abolish their health care system and have corporations take it over, charging them any price they like, and offering any service the like? In America, would you do away with Social Security, as Bush and his cronies have attempted? (European readers, 'Social Security' is the American government's universal health care for old people -- works great, except that big pharmaceuticals charge the system too much for drugs). It works amazingly well, and has done for 70 years.... It is much more effective than any private insurance, and the cost is ridiculously low in comparison. You, I, all of us, we will benefit from this government health care when we turn 64.

    Michael Moore is a great documentarian -- skilled, funny, experienced --, but not a great spokesman for health care, because his objectivity has been tarnished.

    But there are a lot of other sources of information on government healthcare besides Michael Moore, fortunately.

    One thing I do agree with you on, Lori -- love the US, love living here, wouldn't live anywhere else! I don't think we have it as good as elsewhere, but I still love it.

  8. Jun 2nd, 2008 5:43 PM

    Thanks for joining up Lori. You said a thing wonderfully, it doesn't matter where are we coming from, it is what we carry inside that matters. And I couldn't agree more.

    I could disagree on the view of universal health service. In my opinion it is better to have something controlled by government then by corporations. I've heard cases of governments being overthrown, never heard one such for a corporation doing bad job. And this does not have to apply for health service, it is my view in general.

    I have yet to see a good example of fierce independence in America, especially independence from government. The only thing America seems to be achieving nowadays in independence from the rest of the world.

    Coming from Flint, Michigan you surely have few good stories about what is it like to grow up in America midwest. I'd really like to hear them.

    Also I am very interested in you view on Micheal Moore.