Remember meForgot password?
    Log in with Twitter

article imageOp-Ed: America the doormat — U.S. media finally notices

By Paul Wallis     May 4, 2014 in World
New York - The New York Times has been doing some soul-searching of America. Facts and figures have added up, and the result is a pretty sorry spectacle. In short, the only U.S. media site that can still spell has at last got the message.
Frank Bruni, one of NYT’s most articulate columnists, put together a sort of post-it note of despair, which got quite a reaction from NYT readers:
American schoolchildren aren’t anywhere near the head of the international pack, and American adults, according to one recent study, lack the technical skills that peers in many other developed countries have.
American bridges crumble. American trains crawl. American flights leave from terminals that pale next to many Asian and European counterparts. Joe Biden acknowledged as much three months ago when he compared La Guardia Airport to a third-world country. I’ve been to La Guardia and I’ve been to Guatemala, and if I were Guatemala, I’d sue for defamation.
My Times colleague Nicholas Kristof wrote about America’s rank on a new “social progress index” that includes 132 countries. We’re 39th in basic education, 34th in access to water and sanitation — access to water and sanitation! — and 16th over all, just two spots above Slovenia.
He also notes with neighbourly horror that the Canadian middle class had overtaken the American middle class. Australia did so last year, on a minimum median basis. Citing the Heartland Monitor Poll, he laments, with good reason, the declining but realistic, informed, expectations of an America which is pessimistic to the core.
That pessimism has been building up for quite a while. It started with Vietnam, and has simply grown with each new disaster. Disaffection, created by new catastrophes, has become an industry in its own right. Howling, illiterate, and above all insular, rednecks now make millions of dollars out of America’s woes.
Rednecks, notably ALEC, now write the legislation, too. The age of actual representation is long gone. Bernie Madoff would never have even been charged, under some new Supreme Court rulings, one of which included the interesting notion that fraud is a form of free speech. This fake America is a product of the delusions of America’s executive freeloaders, as much as anything else.
NYT readers were all over this article, reflecting a multi-layered, multi directional, view of the train wreck. Some simply didn’t believe it, some agreed, some pointed out a few of the disasters which created the national mess.
NYT comments don’t have the space for the sort of library which many of the commenters might have added. One of the most notable trends was the reference to those profiting from the coast to coast deconstruction of America. The 1% were a common theme, directly or indirectly, for identifying the cause of the meltdown.
The truly insular part of America, in fact, is an interesting study. These people have never fought wars, never participated in anything much, in fact, and they’re the sacred cattle of the new economic isolationism within America. Everything, in fact, is all about their money.
Their money runs policies these days. They’ve effectively seceded from the United States. Whatever happens “over there” in America, it’s nothing to do with them, and they’ll be keeping it that way, from apparent trends.
Worse, their highly selective ignorance also now runs policy. If your idea of good policy is simply turning on the taps for more money for yourself, why would you bother to consider anything else? You don’t have a problem with education, housing, health care, crime, or all that other stuff. You can sit there and fester for a few more generations quite happily. And they will.
If a gut wrenching realism is now the norm for the rest of America, it’ll take some time for any kind of reaction, effective or otherwise, to kick in. Disillusion with Congress is now universal. Alternative solutions are few and largely out of date.
The idea of replacing a system which doesn’t work isn’t getting much traction, even now. It should work, but it doesn’t… Try tweaking a few other things…. There’s a few decades likely to be wasted.
Then and now
The original America was a truly unique thing. A 200+ year old system based on sheer inspiration achieved miracles, raising the standard of living for the world in the process. It peaked in 1950. It was the exact opposite of the present, setting new goals, respecting scientific achievements and human rights, and creating the Great Society, however illusory, as a reasonable expectation.
The original American Dream was a very big dream. The American Nightmare is a shared neurosis, backed up by flying bullets, bizarre gnomes called “thought leaders”, as if thinking was some sort of Boy Scout activity, and endless rationales for failures.
The following decades have been an almost entirely unbroken record of decline. America’s embarrassing descent into a sort of senile high school debating society, with corresponding simplistic arguments, has been truly hideous to watch.
As though the most complex nation on Earth is going to be fixed by jingles from lobbyists or edicts from some damn oil company. In many cases, the selective ignorance is also genuine ignorance. The Rule of the Clueless is also now the norm. Expediency trumps necessity.
Corporations now routinely break laws. They employ lawyers to find ways of breaking laws. Everything’s OK, as long as you can settle and pay the fines. The nation's best interests are very much a shabby doormat.
When America's gone?
For the rest of the world, notably America’s allies, also in their own various related stupors, this be-ain’t good news, nossirree Roberta, nohow. No other nation is likely to be big enough minded to step into America’s role. America at its best understood its role. Now it doesn’t even understand itself.
If allies dread the arrival of the fully vegetative version of America, now expected any minute, it’s with good reason. America’s real legacy will be the years it spent saving the world from the rise of the new primitivism/barbarism, now lapping merrily at the shores of a world which had almost forgotten it existed.
As America sets, a hideous day may dawn. That will be truly regretted, by everyone. Pity nobody bothered to do anything about it, isn’t it?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about New York Times, Alec, America's decline, America then and now, US media
More news from
Latest News
Top News