In my earlier post today, about new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada (I like the way that sounds a lot better than Prime Minister Stephen Harper, admittedly), I mentioned that there have been numerous times where I wished I was a Canadian. Really, this dates back several decades, back possibly to the late 1980's, when my family first started going up to Canada with a degree of regularity. Certainly, by the late 1990's, I had taken several trips up there, and would take many, many more over the course of the years. In fact, this year, 2015, has been the first since 1997 where I did not actually manage to get up to Canada for even a short trip.
Still, that desire stems from the image that Canada seems a lot more progressive and ahead of the times that the United States. A lot more like Europe, or Japan, or Australia, New Zealand, Israel, South Africa, or other nations where people are systematically given what Americans are systematically denied. Specifically, things like adequate, affordable health coverage, decent vacation time, paid maternity leave, livable wages, better environmental policies, etc..
These are familiar lines, of course. But they were not always. Up until recently, Americans seemed to be so taken with who they are, and their own significance in this world, that they collectively (there were always some exceptions, however) could hardly be bothered to look outside of American borders to see what other countries were doing, and whether or not this was worth even short consideration, let alone serious reflection.
Too often, Americans have been completely taken by their own self-importance, and this has really gotten in the way of political progress. I suspect that is what is wrong with American politics in general, and it has adversely affected the standard of living within the country. And when you live in such a country, where everyone and their uncle waves the flag proudly, to the point that you can hardly drive in any direction for longer than a few minutes without constant reminders of where you are, and when you hear many of these same people saying that this is the greatest country, all the while swaggering and supporting regressive political beliefs and practices that actually go against their own best interests, it can get rather depressing.
It does seem, finally, that many Americans are waking up, however. It took long enough, but more and more Americans actually are seeing how much better everyone else has it for many things, and wondering why we cannot have many of these same things. After all, why should it cost us not only more, but much, much more for the same medicines that are sold in other countries for a fraction of what they are sold for here? Many of these drugs also happen to be made in America, which really makes you wonder. Yet, for all of the outrage about Obamacare, I have heard not one voice of outrage from conservatives in this regard, even though, to me, this is far, far more scandalous and indicative of a serious problem.
Also, why can't we enjoy more weeks of vacation time? Or paid maternity leave? Or affordable childcare? Free college tuition? Stronger environmental regulations? A better education system? A stronger infrastructure, particularly with better passenger train service? Greater benefits in general, and a living wage to go along with that?
Well, we are slowly waking up to that, although it is a time consuming process. An admittedly painful one, at that.
What we need are things that continue to pound the point home that, far from being the model which the world looks to for leadership, we are cheating ourselves as Americans from what other countries have shown can truly work. After all, they have these things there, and we do not.
If that is to change, we need not fear constructive criticism of our country and, frankly, of the often regressive attitudes that lead to those policies, and that kind of thinking regenerates. That is how we get in the mess that we are in, with poverty growing, a middle class that is disappearing, eroding away, while the very rich gain more wealth and more power. It is the complete opposite of how things should be.
Open this link, especially if you are an American, to see a little of what I am talking about. These countries in Scandinavia have some things that we Americans would tend to think of as fantasy land, and which too many Americans would dismiss as socialist or communist.
But these things exist, they work in other countries, and they can work here, too. Let us no longer be so self-indulged, that we cannot learn lessons from others outside of our borders:
WTF is Wrong With Americans?