In a previous post I talked about Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on HBO. One of the stories they did was on lead. Not just in Flint, though that was surely the impetus. One of the facts they brought up was most of the industrial world stopped using lead in things like paint back in the 1920s. But America, well, we knew better than the rest of the fucking world, so we kept using lead into the middle of the century. That's why so many buildings have lead paint yet in old neighborhoods usually populated by people too poor to repaint them.
It got me thinking: this is just one instance of many where America thinks it knows better than the rest of the world. A far less serious example: the metric system. The whole rest of the freaking world uses the metric system, but America was too dumb and too stubborn to convert after trying it in the 70s.
Health care: as Bernie Sanders says, every other civilized country in the world has single-payer healthcare. Not America. We have the half-assed "Obamacare" system because we're too stubborn and scared to go to single-payer. Unlike everyone else.
Gun control: Again, most every other civilized country in the world has restrictive controls on guns, especially assault weapons. Not America. We pretty much let anyone who wants one buy an AR-15--or twenty. And hey, why not some armor-piercing bullets with those? You want a rocket launcher? An Apache helicopter? Your own personal AEGIS cruiser? Why not? This is America, goddamn it!
Drugs: Other countries have legalized marijuana, with Canada promising to be the latest next year. Not America. We spend billions incarcerating people for toking a joint or buying a dime bag of weed. The "war on drugs" hasn't accomplished anything except record jail populations, but we can't stop now, this is America!
Education: As the song says, We don't need no education. Especially not math and science. You don't need no Charles Darwin when you have the Bible! And them greedy teachers don't need no money or benefits or school supplies! That history textbook was good enough for my grandpappy and it's good enough for my kids!
OK, I'm exaggerating...slightly. The point is, we have this attitude of "USA! USA! We're #1!" and yet we're far from #1 on a lot of important issues. Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" would be a wonderful idea if he didn't mean it as going back to 1910s standards on race, the environment, and wages. We keep thinking if someone else did it successfully we can't do the same because that would be a sign of weakness. But taking from other countries is how we built this country. It's how we got to the moon. Why shouldn't we continue that grand tradition?
Moving forward to catch up to the rest of the world on so many things is how we make America great, not going backwards to some imaginary Leave It to Beaver past.
Incidentally this topic is apparently also the subject of Michael Moore's latest effort Where to Invade Next, which is on DVD or digital. The idea is the world has a lot better ideas than us and ironically many of them started here.