5-13: American Greatness

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Henry Giroux from Truthout recently wrote a piece about “Why Teachers Matter in Dark Times.” It speaks mostly to current politics and the need for a healthy public education system. Of course he mentions a candidate who claims to like “the uneducated” and he does make a persuasive case for the absolute necessity for good teachers. In the sentence quoted below, however, I believe he has touched on much broader problems plaguing our collective way of life.

“(1) A culture of cruelty and (2) a survival-of-the-fittest ethos in the United States is the new norm and one consequence is that (3) democracy in the United States is on the verge of disappearing or has already disappeared!”

  1. We cannot deny that, even though so much of government’s business is opaque, there is enough transparency–usually forced out of “them”–for us to realize that we can be cruel as a people. One word makes the point: torture. Who justifies cruelty? Who authorizes and orders it? Who performs it? Who tries to cover it up? How can we ever claim the apocryphal high road knowing we have stooped so low? The fact that so many Americans, usually those fed and led by right-wing media, favor the on-going existence of Guantanamo Bay for the very purpose of continuing the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” surely speaks to a cultural crisis. Speaking for myself, a self-professed lefty liberal, I find even a discussion of the topic sickening. And I will not concede that cruelty/torture constitutes any part of my American culture. At the danger of appearing smug, I was raised better than that.
  2. If survival of the fittest is going to be the ethos of our culture, than our culture is damned. Borrowing from a text that many will recognize and many of the righties mentioned above give lip service to, I ask what are we to do with:
  • those who mourn … Shall we just discard them as weak?
  • the meek … Shall we ignore those without bluster?
  • those who hunger and thirst … Yeah, let’s close those food pantries, do away with the Salvation Army and its ilk.
  • the merciful … Patsies, right?
  • the peacemakers … Tree hugging, socialist, commies.
  • those who are persecuted … They are not real Americans. They are not like “us.”

3. American Democracy that I learned about in school, read about on my own, taught, and was even prepared to die for does not exist. Maybe it never did. Instead of building on our institutions and learning from our mistakes, it has become unpatriotic in the eyes of many to question “America.” Well, here goes. We are “the” superpower on earth. No question about that. The question is why we have to continue to grow our arsenals at the expense of so many domestic needs. The answer is we don’t. We have dwarfed every other country on earth in terms of militarism. Enough. We don’t need to give up that status because we have decided to reroute some percentage of defense spending toward domestic programs. Let’s once again:

  • comfort those who mourn,
  • acknowledge the meek.
  • feed those who hunger and thirst.
  • thank the merciful.
  • praise the peacemakers.
  • lift up those who are persecuted.

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