A recent article posted to the website Alternet posed a simple question: Are Americans crazy?
In my long nomadic life, I’ve had the good fortune to live, work, or travel in all but a handful of countries on this planet. I’ve been to both poles and a great many places in between, and nosy as I am, I’ve talked with people all along the way. I still remember a time when to be an American was to be envied. The country where I grew up after World War II seemed to be respected and admired around the world for way too many reasons to go into here….
In the early fall of 2014, I traveled from my home in Oslo, Norway, through much of Eastern and Central Europe. Everywhere I went in those two months, moments after locals realized I was an American the questions started and, polite as they usually were, most of them had a single underlying theme: Have Americans gone over the edge? Are you crazy? Please explain.
The author goes on to detail the issues that make America a “puzzlement” to the rest of the world, and I encourage you to click through and read the whole depressing thing.
The takeaway–at least for me–was that this question isn’t just being posed to the six million Americans who live abroad. Increasingly, it is a question that the dwindling numbers of reasonable Americans are asking each other here at home.
How do we explain the various buffoons and zealots holding public office, and the widespread disengagement from the democratic process that placed them there? How do we explain the contempt for poor Americans that characterizes debates about healthcare, poverty and the growth of inequality? How do we explain widespread rejection of science, the backlash against women’s rights, the refusal to do anything about mounting student debt, or even to recognize that education is a public good? How can we possibly defend letting our infrastructure crumble? Or explain the respectful attention generated by chickenhawks intent upon taking us into war after war? (Yes, Lindsay Graham, I’m looking at you and John McCain and the other “heirs” of Dick Cheney.)
If all of this isn’t crazy–if Americans aren’t in the grip of national psychosis– what is it?