For the past few years, I have been watching with some dismay at what has been transpiring south of the border in the U.S.A. What it amounts to is nothing less than a once great nation and role model for the world self-destructing in slow motion in an orgy of ignorance, polarization, corruption, hate-mongering, selfishness, inhumanity, and some would say even treason.
It has been hard to take. I grew up admiring America, the land of the free and the home of the brave. It was the leader of the free world. It was the land of opportunity. It was the world leader in science, education and technology. It was a beacon for democracy and promoter of human rights. It was what most developing and third world countries aspired to. Not anymore.
Somewhere over the last few decades, America has lost its way, and is rapidly becoming a global pariah as well as a laughingstock on the world stage. Its criminal mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic is the latest graphic example of how badly things have deteriorated, though there are many other cracks in its now crumbling foundation. It would be easy to blame all this on Trump, but he has only been the latest virulent catalyst that has greatly accelerated a decline that started much earlier.
America is deeply divided amongst numerous fault lines – between rich and poor, between the working class and the corporate elites, between whites and people of colour, between Democrats and Republicans, between liberals and fundamentalists, between globalists and isolationists, between the educated and the learning-challenged, and lastly between those that trust the mainstream media and those that see it as an enemy. Aggravating the situation, and some would say a primary cause of it, is the fact that most of the levers of government power have been seized by an ultra-right, self-serving corporate elite whose primary motivation is not the welfare of American society, but to turn the country into an autocratic state and siphon off the nation’s wealth into their own pockets. The America that once upon a time was a country the world admired and strove to emulate, has become one that the world looks down upon and pities.
The United States of America was created some two hundred and fifty years ago on the basis of some commendable high ideals and principles, foremost being freedom, democracy, equality, justice and as Abraham Lincoln once said, a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” It is becoming increasingly evident that many of those words are ringing more than a little hollow.
This is nowhere more evident than when one looks at how the economic pie is distributed in the U.S. The top 1 per cent of the population owns 40 per cent of the wealth, while the bottom 90 per cent owns just 25 per cent of the pie. What is worse is that this has been trending the wrong way for decades. In 1989, the top 1 per cent held 30 per cent of the wealth and the bottom 90 per cent had 33 per cent. The rich are indeed getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer. Even more damning are how the stats look like when one considers the race factor. The median income of blacks in the U.S. is around $17,000, of Latinos/Hispanics $21,000, and for all others, it is $65,000. It is no wonder that America has serious racial problems.
The consequences of this are being increasingly felt in a significant deterioration in the quality of life for most Americans. The most glaring inequity resulting from this is the fact that the U.S. is the only country in the developed world that does not have a universal government subsidized health care system. In this respect, the U.S. is keeping company with such countries as Sudan, Afghanistan, Angola and Indonesia. To get sick in America often means to go bankrupt or die. This is unconscionable for a supposedly civilized country.
One of the sad corollary developments of the past few decades has been the disappearance of the once respected Republican party as a party of the people. Many have forgotten that Abraham Lincoln was a Republican who was largely responsible for the abolition of slavery and the emancipation of slaves. Theodore Roosevelt was a Republican who fought hard to break up corporate monopolies and trusts, and who helped create the American national park system. Dwight D. Eisenhower was a Republican who expanded the social security system, fought against foreign isolationism, and who warned us of the dangers of the influence of the “military-industrial complex.” Todays Republicans, by contrast, show little empathy for the average American or his needs, but are almost completely focused on corporate tax cuts, gutting the social security system, and concentrating power in the hands of a small corporate elite. They have become a party “of the rich, run by the rich and for the rich”, and the rest be damned.
As the U.S. heads towards elections this fall, it will be interesting to see whether the majority of the American population will finally realize what is being done to them, and begin a course correction to bring the U.S. back on track towards being a respected and humane world power. We indeed need America to become “great” again, but not the perverted and malevolent “great” as Trump defines it.