Phew! The return of rationality to America?

I’m sure I must be the only person in the world blogging about Obama today…

I just wanted to say what a relief it is to see someone with an IQ over a hundred back in power. And, what’s more, mentioning both science and atheism (or at least, “non-believers”) in the inaugural address, no less. How often does that happen?

I’ve lived in the US for two years now and I have to say, this is quite a sick country. Don’t get me wrong – the American people are the most delightful race I’ve met. They’re almost universally generous, honest, open, friendly and diligent. I have a very high regard for them as individuals, but for some reason the country as a whole doesn’t reflect the character of its inhabitants.

The medical services are excellent, but only if you can afford them and only if your insurance company doesn’t find a way to dump you in the gutter. The teachers try hard yet the education system still sucks. Here in Louisiana over a quarter of the adult population can’t read or write, and the  progressive education revolution of the 1970’s seems to have passed the state by completely. The degree of poverty is staggering to behold in such a rich country. Government at all levels is sickeningly corrupt and yet nobody seems to find this surprising. Nor does anyone seem troubled by a murder rate tens of times higher than most other nations. A longstanding and perhaps understandable lack of awareness of other countries and other cultures has been compounded by the fortress mentality following 9/11, as if the best way to stop people hating you is to become even more ignorant of them and antipathetic to them. The TV networks mostly churn out drivel in short bursts between great swathes of the most outrageously unregulated advertising, especially for drugs. People routinely leave all the lights on and the a/c cranked up, apparently because they’re genuinely unaware of the true cost and consequences. Cars seem specifically designed to consume the maximum amount of fuel per cupholder, and the manufacturers actually get away with making this sound like a feature. Nobody seems to see the irony in building drive-thru pharmacies so that fat people don’t have to get out of their cars and take a moment of exercise. Racism is rife, even when in the guise of political correctness. Religion, in particular fundamentalist Christianity (which seems to share very little with traditional Christianity in a politico-moral sense) controls things to a degree not far short of Muslim fundamentalism elsewhere, and yet everyone believes themselves to be uniquely free.

I can only conclude that the lovely, delightful people of the United States have been insidiously, if perhaps unintentionally,  brainwashed for years by big corporations, churches and a supposedly “light touch” government that in some ways makes Soviet-style socialism seem hands-off. They are taught that the only possible alternative to capitalism is communism. They are told on a daily basis that America is the best at everything, and so they naturally assume that life can’t get much better than this and they’re glad they don’t have to live in backward places like, say, Sweden. The place is plastered with national flags and children are taught to be patriotic as if this is somehow better than being cosmopolitan and globally aware.

For a long time I’ve thought America, and hence the western world, was headed into a dark age. But maybe not. Maybe Obama will succeed in making macho, gun-wielding, ignorant, nationalistic, superstitious, bigoted, dogmatic thoughtlessness seem as silly, childish and embarrassing as it really should, instead of holding it up as a role model in the way that Bush did. Most of the people I’ve met here are nice, well-meaning, thoughtful folk – it’s not their fault that they’ve been hoodwinked and taught to keep their real views hidden for fear of sounding unpatriotic. McCarthyism is still very much alive and well here. But let’s hope we’re entering a new age of reason and enlightenment at last. So, congratulations Mr. Obama, and good luck.

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