Is American Exceptionalism What We Think It Is?

Back before Trump and COVID, I used to hear and see people lecturing others that America truly was The Greatest Nation in the World, telling tales of grateful immigrants now and in the past, sharing how they feel when they see The Flag, and oh yes, we have Barack Obama as president!

This was, of course, rather offensive to non-white Americans, who saw what we were even before we elected Trump. If you spent a little time in an online Native American or Black community in 2016, for example, you did not see a whole lot of “the America I know would NEVER elect Trump” because they knew, that yeah, America could elect Trump. So we did. But this near-religious fervor in believing in Amerian exceptionalism was also ignoring some other clear signs of where our nation was. Namely, in many cases, our global rankings compared to other, similar nations were not great.

“We’re Number One, Right?!” Well…

In December 2014, Bloomberg reported that the United States ranked 44th in health care efficiency. According to the 2014 Global Peace Index by the Institute for Economics and Peace, we ranked 101st. In World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report for 2013, we ranked 23rd in gender equality. In 2009, we tied for 151th in child mortality with Lithuania, Serbia, Slovakia, and the United Arab Emirates, and 34th in maternal survival (FYI, this last thing has become much worse).

There are certainly some things we are doing decent enough at. We have dropped some from several years ago but are still in the top 10 overall as per this ranking. But none of this really points to “exceptional.”

That leads me to this Tweet by MSNBC Host and Perpetually Exasperated Human Chris Hayes yesterday:

Should Have Known This Was Coming

What Hayes is talking about there is one of the things that had me unnerved heading into the pandemic. There is no doubt we have one of the best research infrastructures in the world, as it draws a lot of brilliant minds from elsewhere to America to work in places like Penn State (as a science writer there, I see a lot of that brilliance every day). We also spend, by far, the most per capita on health care than any other nation in the world. However, we have this as a result:

American life expectancy has decreased since 2014, even before the pandemic. While other developed nations have kept rising, we are unique in our level of backsliding.

COVID, of course, only made that worse, dropping it a whopping 1.8 years, the largest post-World-War-II decline in American life expectancy. We stand out, we are exceptional, in this case.

We are also exceptional in how likely you are to die from COVID compared to other countries. Despite this, the drive to make it all normal is winning, as even Democratic governors are lifting mask mandates. Understandable, as the pressure from the Worst Voices on the Internet (seriously, Nate Silver went from data guru to kinda-sorta-sociopathic about COVID) to let our normal flags fly and it’s only the stinkin’ scaredy-cat hippies that are worried has really gone overboard. You’d think they’d have learned from this – from last May! Plus, there’s a midterm election to try to win, because the other party is so out-of-control every election is an existential dread moment for the nation (at least the sane ones and the ones actually paying attention). And truly, people are pandemic weary.

These Democrat leaders also see other countries dropping mask mandates, but those nations aren’t exceptional as ours is as far as the number of people refusing the vaccine for insane reasons. So, dropping mask mandates is probably not going to be as successful here as it is in other countries.

A Paradise for a Virus

Hayes’ Tweet also speaks to how it makes perfect sense that the virus is thriving in early 21st-Century America. A lot of what is wrong with America are choices we make as a society, and that includes some instances where we just shrug at mass death. Despite estimates of 100,000 to 200,000 Americans dying from air pollution annually, articles like the one I am linking to are often written right after a new study and get limited play in the media and next to no political action. Air pollution especially harms low-income people and people of color. Yet, there is not a lot of evident concern, as we just ignore it as a society. As you can see, we have some experience simply turning our back on people dying.

Continue reading “Is American Exceptionalism What We Think It Is?”

Wrong Again, Oh ‘Reasoned One’

I can’t cover what happened yesterday at the Supreme Kangaroo Court any better than Cassandra did here. So, I’ll just ask a few questions to the Reasoned Very Serious People, the ones who have been telling us the following over the last five years: – Trump can’t possibly get the nomination. – America would never elect someone like Trump. – McConnell can’t block a Supreme Court nomination – Trump will have to change, the office demands it. – He’ll have people around him to control him. – Tonight, Trump became presidential (multiple, multiple times) – The Mueller Report will save … Continue reading Wrong Again, Oh ‘Reasoned One’