(This is an excerpt of an article that was first published on Truthout on April 4, 2015. To read the full article, click here.)
I’ve heard both EPA Chief Gina McCarthy and “The Newsroom’s” Will McAvoy say that the United States used to be a lot tougher than it is now. “We have not shied away from difficult decisions,” McCarthy told the American Meteorological Society in January. “We didn’t scare so easy,” said McAvoy in 2012.
Those sound like fine virtues, but I’m 28 years old, and I can’t recall a time I ever felt like the United States wasn’t scared of something. I already know the super patriots will castigate me based on the title of this piece alone.
That is because, gentle readers, the United States’ biggest fear these days seems to be one idea.
Now, don’t get ahead of me just yet. I know the United States has always been afraid of some ideas. The founding fathers had to eliminate an antislavery passage in the original Declaration of Independence because the idea of truly universal human rights was too seditious for history’s most seditious (free) men. Their descendants, the pioneers, nearly obliterated the continent’s native peoples because the idea of sharing it was simply untenable for them. Reconsidering our failed drug policy will require a heckuva lot more courage than our current policymakers can muster, because the idea that 50 percent of federal convicts are in prison and not rehab makes for mighty uncomfortable conversation.
So what one idea am I talking about? Well, the big idea. The big idea of what exactly we want the United States to be. The big idea involves talking about the United States, and discussing the United States, and admitting that the United States fell behind the rest of the developed world on pretty much any index we belong to a long time ago. According to one global report, we’re 25th in math and science. According to another, we’re 14th in reading. According to Legatum, we’re 31st in safety and security, 21st in personal freedom.
According to Reporters Without Borders, the United States currently ranks 49th in how freely its press thinks it can express itself. That may have something to do with the fact that the current presidential administration has used the Espionage Act against more government employees than all previous administrations combined, or it may have something to do with the fact that – depending on which lawyer you talk to – the US military now has the power to detain and interrogate US citizens and deny them their constitutional rights.
Read the full article on Truthout.