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Americans: Privately, A Good and Decent People

The Pledge of Allegiance

We Americans have constructed an extraordinarily wealthy and powerful nation. We bestride the world like a colossus.

We aspire to be a good and decent people. As private citizens, at home in America, we meet many of these aspirations better than the people of any other large nation.

We love our families and care for them responsibly. Well over three hundred million of us live in peace and harmony with our neighbors. We have (almost) exorcised the demon of slavery which bedeviled our nation. Legislation passed in the last century has legally guaranteed the rights of racial minorities, women and the physically handicapped.

Our local and state governments function well. We trust them and we participate in our local governance. We volunteer our services to our schools and hospitals. The world’s largest philanthropies are American.

In the last few decades hundreds of thousands of idealistic Americans, organized by private charities and religious organizations have served abroad helping the poor in the poorest of countries, often at great personal risk. We are indeed, privately, at home and abroad a good and decent people.

Some of our most successful businessmen, like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, have set up foundations which are working successfully with indigenous people to reduce poverty and disease in the poorest of nations.

We are not a cynical people. We are deeply engaged in the world we know. We trust our media and our government and we respect our corporations. We like our neighbors.

We are a hopeful and creative nation. We trust our systems. Our system of education has produced the best universities in the world. The brightest youngsters in the world beat a path to their doors. Every year we graduate thousands of the most brilliant technological entrepreneurs and leading edge scientists.

Most of the States in these United States of America govern themselves admirably. California, the sixth largest economy in the world, leads the world in technological innovation, and in attention to mitigating the causes of global warming.

We know, generally, that our federal government is deeply corrupted by corporate money, and that our two party system is not working well. We are not exactly sure of the details, or the solutions. Thus we continue to to re-elect our “neighbors” as our Federal representatives, while we excoriate our Federal government.

We like the way we live, and we are suspicious of any major changes  which might threaten our lifestyle. We are an innovative nation. Intuitively, we believe that we will innovate appropriate solutions to the problems which threaten us, without having to change the way we live or think.

Our system works. We can point to having created a very successful country. Major changes to any part of our smoothly working system should, we feel, not be necessary.

We are thus ambivalent about our response to major challenges like, for instance, climate change, which might require changes in our life style. We are very susceptible to arguments, made by our neighbors in their capacity as corporate employees, or as elected representatives who accept contributions from corporations, that “the scientists do not agree among themselves” about climate change, or that “limiting fossil fuel drilling in the Arctic” will hurt the US economy.

Any major changes to our fossil fueled system made now, these corporate employees and “our” elected representatives assert, would reduce the number of American jobs available, would damage our “security” and impair our “standard of living”.  Change now would be “premature” they assure us. Most definitely, they say, they personally, and the corporations which employ them, care deeply about the environment and will begin implementing change in their corporate practices as soon as scientists are united in their findings. They too they claim, are working hard at finding solutions to our dilemmas. Do they not contribute to Universities and Foundations dedicated to solving our fossil fuel problems? Regulations which impede corporate growth hurt all of us, they assure us.

We are a nation of amnesiacs. Our corporately controlled media does not dwell on past corporate malfeasance. Such events are flushed down the memory hole. Move on, we are instructed. Face the challenges of today. Don’t look back to the problems of yesterday.

Corporations have used “the science isn’t settled” and “we will lose American jobs” and “we will agree with regulating “xyz” as soon as the science is settled” line of reasoning since at least the 1960’s. The then secret record of the corporate malfeasance of tobacco company employees, much of it now public due to court proceedings, shows that our neighbors, as senior and mid-level corporate managers can clearly mislead, obfuscate and lie for decades when their corporate profits and personal careers are threatened.  Our elected federal representatives will lie to preserve their sources of electoral funding. Knowing the dangers of smoking, US corporations, their PR agencies, their investors and their American employees continue their advertising campaigns to push cigarettes down the throats of the children of developing countries. Why? Is this because they are not our children?

It is clear from example after example that we, who would be horrified if our neighbors or our own children lied and cheated at the weekend little league baseball game, have no scruples about lying to each other as corporate employees, or being lied to by our federally elected representatives.

This schizophrenia is magnified by orders of magnitude when our neighbors, acting in their capacity as our representatives or as employees of our federal government or our military, commit or commission the most heinous and criminal acts in foreign lands. We do not shun them. We call them heroes and hold parades in their honor.

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