Old New Lefty “open-called me out” to write this, and so I answered, with a different view. What he had to say was definitely valid, and I heard him strongly. Here is my answer to this call, word for word…compare it to Old New Lefty’s…and see what you think. My changes in his words, you will find in red.
I live in South Africa, so I don't get to experience the cacophony and media spectacle that is the American news perspective. It's my observation that for the most part, Americans are “now” people, wanting everything from justice to politics to weight loss to be far more expedient than most things are, if lasting results are the aim. Many Americans assume that everyone all over the world wants to live just like them. After all, don't we have the greatest, most exceptional country in the world? This is not always true; while we are one of the greatest countries in the world, we are just one of many.
When I'm in my part of South Africa, I have perhaps 50% of the consumer goods available to me in the United States, and yet my comfort and happiness are in many ways superior to what I experience in the United States. From a “convenience-based” standpoint, I have much less! From an organic standpoint, the world is my oyster. Most farms here are private, and organic principles are used – even in ranching. Americans, restless souls that they are, are in fact not as patient as people in South Africa, who are inconvenienced much more, having more and more opportunities to complain.
Call me a dreamer, but constantly search for truth. Even though I am sceptical and critical in my thinking, I can find reliable news sources and then use them. I never did this in the States, because there, the news was all I needed. I didn’t really care what was happening in Greece, or Norway or Cote d’Ivorie or Chad or Venezuela. Why would I? Those places didn’t really affect my world. In my second life, this so-called retirement where my husband and I work side-by-side with relief and social organizations, I've become a cautious gleaner of the internet. I can easily count well more than 10news sources that I can go to for a well spring of information, as well as blogs I have grown to love and trust as very passionate, but factual. I “collect information” from 10 countries, as opposed to trusting the Associated Press or United Press International, which are currently leaning far, far to “opinion-based reporting” .
And so I admit, my international perspective probably has influenced my viewpoint from the beliefs I once held when I, like the average American, followed American news. But on the other hand, I see things that perhaps most Americans don’t. And that is why Lefty invited me to respond to this Open Call. Such a subject is such a big job that the only solution is to hear more perspectives than our own. Perhaps, if we're lucky, we can come up with a collective vision that is better.
But what do I see? The first thing I see is American Pride. I can see that, when American influences come into South Africa, it is to help, but very rarely to learn. We, as Americans, have our way of doing things, and usually it works pretty well, so we start to think it is the best way. Still, African soil has a way of accusing American ingenuity. Things here are slower and more complicated. Not all materials for resolving disaster are available to us without shipping them in from somewhere else, so even if we use American products (or Mexican products) when they break, we can’t replace them with what is here. Many multi-millionaires don’t understand this, and it it’s because it takes patience to understand. It may take three years of observing African disasters to understand that our way isn’t always the best way.
Once upon a time, it would have been possible to say that America was respected here. When I first came, I remember the terrible, awful comments I got about my beloved homeland. It was immediately after the invasion of Iraq, and America was seen as the instigator- the bully.
The same year,on the Fourth of July, separated from my country and family, I asked my other American friends if they missed it, too. They did, and we cried a little together, and then softly sang “The Star Spangled Banner” in a little huddle. Upon hearing this, some South African friends began to sing their anthem louder. Afterwards, I explained to one of the guys why we had been singing. He was unmoved, and told me that if I loved my country so much maybe I should go back and live there.
What had happened at the hands of America, he asserted, was that they had brought the hell-fire and brimstone down on Iraq. They saw George Bush and Dick Cheney as bullies. As much as I tried to explain that it is Congress who is given the right to declare war; and that 911 destroyed our sense of peace, no one sympathized. I learned to keep my mouth shut when it came to defending my country.
Most people, including Americans, are filled with judgemental half-truths. America, like all superpowers enjoys both the homage and the hatred of other countries, depending upon which side of the fence you are sitting. America – my America- is a diverse land that is filled with differing people and their differing opinions, and no two are exactly the same. Regardless of what Americans think, the world sentiment is not as loving or affectionate as it once was to our country. It makes me sad.
There are economic games that are played in the world with money. No one knows where real money is coming from anymore, unless the World Banks can follow the funds. Let it be said that some countries have become so dependent on foreign aid that their own currency does not have value anymore. American Aid is not always aid; it is more like a mafia loan to some countries. A “Who’s your daddy?” loan, if you will.
I know of no other place in the world that now has the superior form of government, economy, and standard of living compared to America. And yet, with our AAA credit rating reducing to AA, we have lost economic credibility that we may possibly never recover. Our society has been “dumbed down” to believing that debt doesn’t matter, and it does. Because we have debt, we have become vulnerable to our creditors, and no one disputes this in any government. Americans are still decent people, but they live in a debt-ridden world when compared to that of their parents.
The America that I knew has been changed. In the gospel of free trade, our factories have been shuttered and relocated to China or India or Mexico -wherever there is the lowest wage rate, as determined by the owners of said companies. Once upon a time there were tax shelters for these wealthy companies – their CEO’s and presidents we called “fat cats”, but we knew they were a necessary evil to the company doing business in our country. And the cutthroat, market-oriented ownership of these companies got greedier and greedier – all the while the American people screamed for tax-justice; and this caused the moving of these companies to foreign soil. Both things happened at once- not just one.
What once passed for high quality arts and music has been exchanged for the obscenity of "higher art". I love to go to museums, appreciate great art, especially new great art. Now America’s prophets are hanging their paintings and sculptures at sidewalk sales in cities like San Francisco or Chigago or New York, since the artists could never be funded by the NEA for “lack of relevance”. So will our truly great artists of today ever be recognized? There is a new Renaissance going on, if we pay attention.
While most of our sports heroes are spoiled, illiterate jerks, our children are patterning themselves after them, knowing that no matter how they behave, society applauds them and allows their shenanigans if they perform well on the court.
Sundays businesses were closed, mainly because of religious traditions, but we used to rest. Remember rest? It used to be a day for God, back when no one was ashamed to know Him.
When the KKK plastered their hand-outs on our cars, we all shook our heads and knew it was sickness and we didn’t call it free speech. Prayer was allowed in schools, and the Ten Commandments were in courthouses…and no one said we were narrow-minded if we had faith in these things.
Now these things are all demolished and I am sad because of it. It has destroyed our real community, the kind of community that de Toqueville once defined as a basic thread of American national culture.
We live in towns filled with abandoned factories and empty storefronts. It's the law of supply and demand and convenience and the dollar that rules us. What price service and relationship with a store owner? What price community and fellowship and small neighborhoods? We can see that destruction everywhere we look. Our desire for advancement and saving money has destroyed our old Main Streets and malt shops for the sake of the four lane highway lined with gas stations, motels, 7-11s, and Burger Kings. We drive by our old, shuttered former workplaces on the way to our part time job on the graveyard shift of McDonalds.
Instead of having a network of fraternal organizations and garden clubs as a thriving, real community, Americans have become scattered and isolated, clustered in our dark rooms as we hunch over to watch the flat screen TV or computer. Once upon a time, people had secure, long term jobs that paid a decent wage.
Is it any wonder that so many people join megachurches, who offer very little of God, and more of “hands-off” Christianity? America now offers a new Christian version of the Chamber of Commerce, which goes a long way in explaining why the social fabric of our once God-fearing nation has become so worn, and dated and apathetic. Our politics have targeted the religious to stop thinking and start panicking and actually stop reading things from opposing viewpoints.
Meanwhile, American political democracy has devolved into the Sim’s democracy. I use Sims as a perfect description of the current system of many levels of government. Like the virtual reality of the game, our democracy depends on our “Lordship participation.” But our participation is virtual, and not actual. We are only spectators, given a microcosm of democracy in shaping the process. There is no such simple process in shaping American politics, especially in Washington, DC.
Government policy is not as easy as it looks. I’m not an Obama fan, and neither was I a huge Bush fan, but I respect their decisions to govern as they see fit. Only during a time of impeachment should a President ever think of resigning...and our last one didn’t. The political pressures are much more hidden and clever in their manipulations of policy issues. They know that reality is often an unpleasant and complex thing that can make peoples' head hurt from over-thinking (a hyphenized word, Lefty)
The press and politicians allow inconsequential scandals like Secret Service hookers in Columbia or Anthony Weiner to dominate our thinking, instead of focusing the spotlight on detailed analyses of the issues surrounding American labor policy (we used to call this Wag the Dog).
The people are getting nervous. What has worked for us in the past is no longer working. As with all governments, we have our strengths and weaknesses. I never thought I’d be in agreement of most things that Lefty wrote here, but I can see where he has been coming from. I also respect people who have seen more than I have. Lefty has lived longer and this is why I answered this open call.
Given the ocean of information that we are now drowning in, it's important that our news is true, and our sources are trusted. Too much of our news is now filled with perspective, NPR and Rush Limbaugh are the greatest examples (on both ends of the spectrum). The search for answers is too complex, and there are too many bald-faced liars both in the press and on the internet. Our computerized environment has all given us all the attention spans of gnats. Not as many people are reading the powerful essays, novels, or the Bible – things that used to connect us all together as a people.
I am, by no means, an expert simply because I am living on foreign soil, but I have a much more developed perspective than I used to. God help us all.