Work hard and play by the rules and you will achieve the American Dream. This booster phrase is what makes America unique.
Unique’ or ‘exceptional’ implies better.
Yet people in the developed world who have not been raised on that mantra by and large lead more satisfying lives. The much maligned European community has low cost health care for all, low cost universities and vacations that Americans can hardly believe (around six weeks, usually taken partly in summer and partly in winter, keeping the ski slopes busy). Our politicians call them lazy, and by the way they have to be cajoled into helping us fight our wars.
How to explain this? Well, ever since the French guillotined King Louis XVI and his queen who assumed ‘the people’ lacking bread could just as well eat cake, and even though The Revolution turned into The Terror, and Napoleon briefly conquered Europe, NO COUNTRY EXCEPT HITLER’S and his short-lived Quislings has effectively banned egalitarian politics. Only the United States does so. No European country today is led by Communists, but all are alternately led by right and left-wing coalition governments. The current crisis of the Euro zone, like that of Iceland a few years ago, is largely due to European bankers buying into America’s cowboy capitalism.
At the beginning of the financial crisis, in 2008, pundits often reminded us that Roosevelt had told his supporters to ‘make him’ enact social policies. They wonder why Obama cannot do the same. They never mention the fact that in the nineteen thirties, the United States had a vibrant progressive movement, a legal socialist party with 40,000 members, and a Communist Party which in 1919 had 60,000 members. In the late thirties, this militant, organized left WAS able to ‘make’ Roosevelt enact vital reforms, before being decimated by McCarthyism.
Who is going to do that now?
Socially aware political leaders in the United States use their energy to dance around two forbidden words, like moths attracted to light but wary of being burned: socialism and fascism. They can neither warn of a Tea Party led slide into fascism, nor suggest that we emulate our allies and build a coherent welfare state (not one that distributes welfare to the corporations and the rich).
Our self-inflicted censure has created an American Nightmare.