Last Time Out We Shared Some Laughs. Now the Other Side

Two Articles Broke My Heart but They Need to Be Read. Our Friends are Worried About Us.

On my last posting, earlier this week, I shared some editorial cartoons that, as I noted, gave me some laughs, made me angry, made me think. Exactly what such a thing should accomplish. And it seems you agreed. We got a few comments and lots of email about how much we all enjoyed the change and a bit of light heartedness. Goodness knows we could all use a bit of that.

Today, I regret to say I cannot be so lighthearted, but what follows is, in my humble opinion, worth working through. I encourage you to join me in reflecting on these.

What Broke My Heart

It was two very different articles, from two different countries, from two very different authors that broke my heart. Their shared message? The dominant feeling, they and others abroad have toward America now is one of pity. Pity. Not envy, not anger, not amusement, but PITY. And they are right. Read on.

We Start with an Irishman

The first of these is a column in the Irish Times, forwarded by a friend (Thanks, Alan). It was a short but powerful one, written by Fintan O’Toole (you cannot get a more Irish sounding name than that). O’Toole is well known and celebrated as a writer, which is high praise in a culture that celebrates literary excellence almost as a national religion.

O’Toole paints in short, simple prose, the grotesque thing that the Trump presidency has become. He correctly refers to Trump’s live briefings as “a recurring horror show in which all the neuroses that haunt the American subconscious dance naked on live TV.” And he goes on to remind us of so much that is not normal, and not without long-term consequences. He asks the very real question as to whether America might recover or not from seven more months of this madness. I know the feeling. It seems like we are watching a mad dictator flounder about the world stage, doing damage at every turn.

You have heard all this before, but it is instructive, clarifying to hear it from another country, and from a man who seems to care for our country and is sad to write this column. You can read it in a couple of minutes.

The title says it all. “The world has loved, hated and envied the US. Now, for the first time, we pity it.

Have at it. You need to read this one.

Now, a Word from Denmark

The second article was actually an informal interview as part of a larger article. It was the title that caught my eye: “McDonalds’ Workers in Denmark Pity Us”

This was an article in the New York Times just a few days ago. It anchors very much in the morass of the Trump administration, and connects that to needless deaths from the virus, unlike what has happened in Denmark. But the article has a much broader context than that. It is about national decisions as to what we want to be as countries.

Compare the description of how the Norwegian government has dealt with the virus compared to how we are doing this. To be sure, Norway is a smaller, more homogeneous country than the US, but that has zero to do with the choices made. They simply took a smarter, more humane, more efficient approach to every component. The difference in outcomes in every category is staggering.

The epitaph on the tombstone of the Trump administration will surely be “It Did Not Have to Be This Way.”

As a part of this article, columnist Nicholas Kristof interviewed a McDonald’s employee, who is an immigrant. He has a regular job at a regular (Danish) McDonalds.  He said that he felt for his American counterparts, noting that they worked for the same company. But his job profile is, shall we say, a bit different. His pay is $22 an hour. He gets six weeks of paid vacation a year, life insurance, and a year’s paid maternity leave. He has a pension plan. And like all Danes, he has universal medical insurance and paid sick leave.

He has all this because his fellow countrymen decided that in the 21st century certain social securities should be assured in a reasonably wealthy country. If that means everyone pays a bit more, they have decided it is worth it, because it is the right thing to do and because it makes for a much stronger economy. It also results in far less social tension or political divisions.

People are reasonably sure the bottom will not fall out from them someday. They would be stunned at the idea of not seeking medical help, say for a virus symptom, because they could not pay the medical bill. They would tell you that makes no sense for anyone, and certainly not for the country. Their system has social and economic resilience. Ours increasingly does not.

The hamburger handler from Bangladesh who now lives in Norway pities his American counterparts. He has good reason. Here is the full article. It is a thoughtful piece.

A Closing Note from Canada

I just saw this a couple of days ago. I failed to jot it down and so cannot attribute it to the author, but I think I saw it on Twitter. Here is the quote:

As a Canadian, I love Americans and I care about what happens to them. But I swear, sometimes it feels like we live in a second-floor apartment above a meth lab.”

 So, Here We Are

Our friends pity us. Our neighbors find we increasingly make them nervous and they worry what is becoming of the neighborhood.

They all have good reason to feel as they do.

It Did Not Have to Be This Way.

In case you are wondering, November the 3rd is 172 days away.  Let’s get to work, folks. We have so much to do.

              Bill Clontz

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3 replies to Last Time Out We Shared Some Laughs. Now the Other Side

  1. I gotta tell you, the bitterness that wells up inside me every day is almost debilitating. I plan to go door to door next fall to make sure my fellow Democrats go to the polls. We can’t have a repeat of the 2000 election. We certainly can’t have this troll re-elected. It will take the rest of my lifetime to repair what this administration has broken. And that is not an overstatement.

  2. The Irish editorial says it all…we have lost our moral compass.

    As for the Danish labor experience, try the math. Take your household budget and raise your taxes by 19%, remove all medical and pension/retirement expense and raise other expenses by 18%. Is your bottom line still positive? If not, what discretionary expenses will need to be eliminated to balance the budget. All you get in return is peace, security and happiness. Your choice.

    • Well said, Jerry. And I like your closing line very much. It seems that in most countries who have chosen a similar course, most of their citizens have reached the same conclusions; they are willing to put a bit more in the shared pot not only as a contribution to their fellow citizens but to protect civil society writ large. I am increasingly inclined to think they are on to something. I have a future blog coming out soon on why this seems so tough a grasp for some. Stay tuned!

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