The Des Moines Register, November 1, 1988:


           
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         Travis Charbeneau  3421 Hanover Ave., Richmond, VA 23221
            travischarbeneau@gmail.com    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.