Americans, You’re in a Dangerous Place
Looking back at the essays I’ve written–more than 150 of them–for this blog over the past three years I note that in most of them there’s a tacit subtext for Americans: “Get out of there.” The United States is no longer a safe, healthy place for you to live and raise your children and grandchildren. Before it’s too late you need to get them out of the only country in the world where children wear bullet-proof knapsacks to school. And I’m not talking just about the obvious physical dangers such as police brutality; school shootings; violent racism, and the lack of a proper public health system. This factor alone has contributed to tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths of Americans during the coronavirus emergency.
Even if those obvious dangers were not present the US would still be an unsuitable place to educate children. The reasons are less obvious but more cogent. The United States has a sick, false and ultimately dangerous value system. Americans overvalue things that are frivolous, irrelevant and inhuman and undervalue those that are essential to harmonious human life, things like altruism, civility, tolerance, and generosity. They’re seeing more than ever now the results of twisted values on their streets and in their institutions. The brutality and inadequacy of President Donald Trump makes it easy for them to pass the blame to him. But President Trump didn’t make America; America made President Trump.
If you discuss the issues sincerely and dispassionately with a thinking person from any other country in the world, most of them will agree that today’s US is far down the road to moral, intellectual and economic ruin. It has been on that track for decades but, since President Donald Trump took office in 2017, the situation has spiraled out of control and the future looks even less promising.
A President for His Times
President Trump is the perfect prototype of what’s wrong with America. Any normalcy that he might embody is overshadowed by his shady past, his lies, his conflicts of interest, and his unsettling stage presence. His lack of any normal social, intellectual and moral responses prompts people around the world to hold their heads in their hands and ask, “How is it possible for a person so bereft of normal human qualities to be elected president of what we have always considered the greatest country in the world?” This greatness may have been real 40 or 50 years ago, but not today. The only field on which the United States can claim world leadership is the field of battle, though it’s not clear to what extent that superiority represents an advantage for them.
Despite spending sums that are galloping towards a trillion dollars annually, maintaining more than 800 military installations around the world, and boasting the world’s greatest fleet of killer drones, the Americans are still incapable of winning a war, not even in starving Yemen. They did not win in Irak and they are still grasping for an “honorable” way of backing out of Afghanistan after waging war against that impoverished country for more than a dozen years. Now they are rattling their missiles at Iran and Venezuela. In view of their track record, what do they expect to achieve, beyond lining the pockets of Lockheed Martin, Boeing and the rest of the select mob of American war profiteers? And let’s not forget the tremendous political clout those gentlemen wield.
This insistence on permanent war helps to explain the deficiencies faced by the American people at home: poverty, inequality, crippling racism, crumbling infrastructures and falling standards in public health and education, along with pre-civil-war levels of civil unrest. (I refer not to the last civil war, but to the next one.) These deficiencies and more have brought the people onto the streets and the country to its knees.
Consider How People Live in Other Countries
Comparisons may be odious but in this case I think it’s legitimate to look at the ranking of the United States among other nations and compare their conditions of health and welfare. The data that follow come from reliable international sources, many of them from the United States. Let’s start with overall health. According to the 2019 edition of the Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index, Spain is the healthiest country in the world, followed by Iceland, Japan, and Switzerland. The US is number 35 in the ranking. Life expectancy is also indicative of overall wellbeing. According to Worldography.info, who average the age for both sexes, the United States clocks in at number 46, with 78.11 years of life expectancy, just below Cuba and 44 other countries. At the top is Hong Kong with 89.29 years. How does the US do in literacy? Andorra, Greenland, North Korea, and Uzbekistan enjoy 100% literacy rates as of 2015-16, according to the German site, citypopulation.de. The Washington Post (Mar. 8, 2016) says under the headline Most literate nation in the world? Not the US, that the US has advanced from 11th to seventh place. That js a remarkably positive result for a country whose president refuses to read and is incapable of writing a proper sentence. This president may be a unique case in the entire world.
Other Benchmarks are Equally Telling
What about infant mortality? According to CIA.gov, the US ranks 36th (estimated data 2017) with 5.7 deaths per 1000 live births. These numbers are significantly bettered by countries such as Hungary (4.90), Poland (4.40), Portugal (4.30), Slovenia (3.90), Spain (3.30) along with a couple of dozen more. Neither do the American results for electoral integrity fare very well in the world. “U.S. ELECTIONS RANK LAST AMONG ALL WESTERN DEMOCRACIES,” reads the headline on the electoralintegrityproject.com site (an electoral monitoring project run by Harvard and Sydney Universities) on January 7, 2017. The only ones, among western democracies, who held freer and fairer elections than the United States were everyone else.
Where the US is out front is in coronavirus deaths, where they y overtook China and Italy and currently lead the world with more than 106,000 fatalities.
That is to say, the US is slipping badly in vitally important areas, and these dismal results are not due to coincidence nor bad luck. They’re deliberately built into the American Way of Life and determine the condition of the majority of its citizens. That has not improved since the 1970s and cannot be expected to do so in the next generation or two. The American working class cannot recover because the deck is stacked against them by design. Before they are even born they are victims, via their parents, of a “constitutional democracy” that is little more than a mirage underpinned by a de facto oligarchy that pays pliable politicians, right up through the United States Congress, to unleash and protect predatory capitalism with all of its cruelest attributes. This includes the removal of economic and environmental regulations, gifts of massive tax cuts to corporations, as well as cynical multi-billion-dollar bailouts that include no corresponding equity for the citizens. At the same time they undermine workers rights at every step of the way. The coronavirus pandemic has only aggravated matters. A working family will be lucky to survive, let alone prosper. The voracious American oligarchy is exporting this slash-and-burn model of economic relations around the world.
Don’t Forget the Bright Side
The prospect of leaving the United States for good is not only about escaping an increasingly insufferable situation there. It’s also about the pleasant surprises that await you in your new country of choice. Yes, you can choose your country. What a revelation. We won’t dwell on that aspect here, but dozens of details of daily life will make you feel as if you’re living in a better, more civilized world–because you are.
Leaving your home country is a long-term project that entails formidable challenges. It’s not something that many people would do under normal circumstances. But these are not normal circumstances. And if you get it right the risks and efforts are more than worth the trouble. Take my word for it. I’ve been there.
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Closing note. I have not touched upon the nuts and bolts of self exile in this post. A few years ago I published a three-part article on my old blog which goes into those subjects. It’s a bit out of date but you will get the drift. You can find it here.