The Des Moines Register, November 1, 1988:
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Travis Charbeneau 3421 Hanover Ave., Richmond, VA 23221 firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 804 358 0417 www.travischarbeneau.com
"US Mimics Great Britain's Errors Travis Charbeneau slug "mother" 894 words
"If a young man would see his new wife as she will appear as an old one, he need only behold her mother." This good old male chauvinist bromide bodes ill for the United States regarding our own mother country, Great Britain. We take great pride in our vaunted independence. Yet, even as we cringe as individuals when we find ourselves acting just like mom or dad, as a nation we are discovering that we have stubbornly held onto at least two potentially crippling character traits inherited from England. Most notorious and damaging domestically is our toleration of a huge underclass. Recent Census Bureau reports show 32.5 million of us living in poverty. Add to this the un- and under-employed, unable to share in such American staples as a home, health care or higher education for the kids, and our underclass becomes far more visible than a few million human eyesores parked on heating grates. Add further our growing "information underclass," our own children who can't even find the mother country on a map, and you have -- even as we attempt to sail the treacherous waters of the encroaching world economy, the collapsing environment and other tempests of the 21st century -- a ship of state grossly over-ballasted with poor people and navigated by nincompoops. Great Britain clung tenaciously to her class system, despite bitter lessons reaching all the way back to Cromwell. The result was and is labor/management paralysis and the Thatcherite economic schism between north and south. America clung first to slavery, and still holds to various forms of "trickle down" economics ("a rising tide lifts all boats. I say, old sod, you _do_ have a boat!?") This resulted in our own bloody civil war, continuing American labor/management paralysis and the current millstones of poverty and ignorance hanging around _our_ neck as we move into an accelerating future. How ironic that the utterly class-ridden, feudal Japanese should achieve economic predominance and a virtually classless society _under American tutelage_, while we have foundered in selfishness. The second codicil to our British inheritance wills us empire. Since WW II, when mom became too arthritic to manage it any longer, her firstborn has been busy carrying Kipling's "White Man's Burden" to benighted corners of the world. We began toddling after mom back towards the end of the last century when our own "Manifest Destiny" decreed that we, too, rated an overseas empire. Too late to steal one from another indigenous peoples, we simply ripped one off ready-made from Spain in 1898. After WW II, we got what was left of mom's -- and other European remnants, including exotics like French Indochina, now known to us quite intimately. Of course, instead of venally saving the world for the East India Company, we were altruistically saving it _from_ communism (and for United Fruit.) And, since we were the richest beggars on the block, we could afford quite a lot of "saving." According to former Reagan advisor Lawrence Korb, one of the original Dark Princes of the civilian Pentagon, we've used our military forces overseas over 300 times since WW II (C-SPAN, 8/29.) Presumably, this doesn't count CIA-engineered coups in places like Iran, Guatemala or Chile. Many hoped that we would have learned the penalties of over-extension after Vietnam, but Iran-Contra gave the lie to any outbreak of common sense in Washington. Indeed, a recent issue of Newsweek reminds us that we are spending our grandchildren's paychecks preparing to fight The Good War all over again. The Navy is singing the blues over advances in Russian attack submarines which could enable them to "disrupt critical allied convoy routes across the Atlantic." Bomb? What Bomb? Paul Kennedy concludes his devastating _The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers_ by remarking that "the only serious threat to the real interests of the United States can come from a failure to adjust sensibly to the newer world order." The new order includes nuclear weapons which will be used as soon as the first quart of blood is spilled in genuine anger, making "convoy routes," carrier groups, manned bombers and canteen-sucking GIs a sick, expensive joke. The new order includes newly-industrialized countries in the East and even the Third World whose populaces actually know where England is. The new order means that nations where index arbitrageurs and Pentagon consultants warrant more money than teachers, police, nurses and consumer R&D will end up where Great Britain is today. If all this somehow sounds "unpatriotic," perhaps we need to remember that America was not destined to be a mere bastard child of England, but a "New World" whose founders solemnly foreswore the ancient vices of _all_ Europe. Remember 1967, when the British sold London Bridge to some Arizona millionaire? America chuckled. Since 1980 we have sold off unprecedentedly huge chunks of our _own_ nation to Japanese millionaires. True patriots will find this less amusing. But our hordes of phony flag-wavers will be undaunted: "Surely we can float another new attack sub or two if buyers can be found for a few really classy national knick-knacks. Why, if the right pitch is made, perhaps some condo developer in Kyoto can be persuaded to buy ... the Statue of Liberty: 'Recently refurbished civic sculpture. Must sell! No reasonable offer refused!!'" Mom would be proud. She might even chuckle.