Sunday, July 25, 2010

America: if it's broken, fix it

Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778) - Vedute di Roma
Every time I come back to the United States, the airports, the roads, the public spaces look to me more tattered, battered, old-fashioned. Modernity is no longer self-evidently here. Timothy Garton-Ash, The Guardian

At a time when China is building hundreds of miles of subway lines, tens of thousands of miles of highways, a couple of dozen nuclear power plants, and a network of tens of thousands of miles of high-speed intercity rail lines, the US struggles to launch a single substantial project. China saves and invests; the US talks, consumes, borrows, and talks some more.  Jeffery Sachs - Financial Times
David Seaton's News Links
The two quotes above, and the articles they originally appeared in, go straight to the heart of America's central problem: decadence.

What other word than decadence could describe not rebuilding a crumbling, decrepit homeland, its political arteries clogged with leftover scraps of Cold War ideology and wounded self-esteem, a land with its potholed roads and tumbling bridges.

What other word than decadence could describe leaving the homeland to rot, while at the same time spending uncountable treasure fighting (and losing) counterinsurgency wars a world away?

What other word but decadence could describe not fixing a moldering school system, that is literally a Polaroid of the country's future, while sending aircraft carrier battle groups to the Persian Gulf and Korea, perhaps to set off another trillion dollar war?

That something so obvious, something that so many people would favor, such as using their tax money for rebuilding the country that they pay taxes in, shows so little sign of happening indicates a paralyzed political system.

Perhaps the issue of rebuilding America might recycle US militarism and substitute its mass of "rice bowls" for an endeavor more positive that would generate equal or superior wealth; that would end political paralysis and also end massive unemployment in the USA...

Could the simple obviousness of all this be the very reason that the country is not allowed to focus its energies on doing it? If the previous sentance makes sense, it shows how far we have come down a road to ruin.

Not fixing what is broken, not renewing what is worn and tattered and not rebuilding what once was one of the best, if not the best, public education system in the world, makes the "audacity of hope" into the hollowest of slogans.

To me the mystery of the Obama presidency deepens and thickens, the distance between what was sold and what is being delivered is so great...

The positive side of Obama's election is that it has shown that the American people are still able to dream and to hope on a big scale and the down side is that the country's great tradition of "there is one born every minute" is also still very much alive. These two currents in America's personality seem to have joined together in this presidency. DS

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