Sunday, September 22, 2013

Miss America, Congress and Know Nothingness

The past week shows that America has a know nothing problem that does not bode well for our future.  It impacts both ordinary Americans and our Congressional decision-makers.

Miss America crown was won by Nina Davuluri, who is from India, yet we saw many Americans outraged that a “Muslim” had won.  Having worked in India (and the Middle East), I know that Indians are Hindu, not Muslim. But you don’t have to travel there to know the difference. Cultural ignorance in the inescapable global economy in which we live is not a good sign. Diversity has always been America’s strength, not a curse.

That bit of ignorance was joined by a Congress full of members –all of whom have government paid health insurance -- who pledged to “defund Obamacare.”  The hypocrisy was missed by those Americans who support the GOP attempt to repeal the law which would return us to the days when insurance companies acted as death panels since they could reject people for health insurance due to a pre-existing condition.  Before the ACA people could have their policies cancelled and run out of insurance when their lifetime limits were reached – although Congress members have no such worries since they get insurance regardless of their state of health.

How can Americans lead a world we know nothing about?  In the 1850’s there was once a party called the “Know Nothing” party. It was founded out of fear of Irish Catholics – the Muslims of their day. Now we live in a country with citizens who know nothing about other cultures but aren’t afraid to express their bigotry in social media.  We have sororities of whites only in Alabama decades after segregation was supposed to end. We have UT students dropping ammonia on minority students.

Americans can tell you everything about “Duck Dynasty” but can’t find Syria on a map despite our having been in next-door Iraq for over a decade.  Even members of Congress have the same problem with maps and history.   In Texas, we have political leaders and Board of Education members who literally believe our 4 billion year old planet is only 5,000 years old.  Damascus, Syria, China and Egypt each have cultures that are 5,000 years old (versus America’s 200-plus years). That is know nothingness at its extreme.

How many Americans know that we have over 2 million high-tech, high-paying jobs available in America? How many know that the problem is that Americans don’t have the skills to fill those jobs – whereas Chinese and Indians do?

We have a political process that has led to narrow, gerrymandered Congressional districts where reps are chosen who have zero global experience but sure know how to sell insurance and cars. They represent people who don’t have the same insurance benefits Congress members have.

Finally, know nothingness has led to a faction in Congress that would shut down government over defunding a healthcare law – denying veterans food stamps, and the elderly their social security checks, while members of Congress continue to get paid their $172,000 plus a year!

So does knowing nothing help Americans win the future?  I recommend we get that knowledge if we really want to lead a world – a world in which the U.S. is the only country that doesn’t provide for its citizens healthcare.

Here is the video version:

Michael Fjetland
Global American Values Series
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Author: “Better Times Ahead April Fool” (Looking Back on the Future of America)

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