We're Number 1?


With the football season approaching, we can get ready to see all kinds of weird fans on the TV screens with their index fingers pointed toward us, yelling, "We're No. 1."

Being No. 1 in the world also comes on strong every four years when American athletes compete in the Olympics. We go into the games knowing we are the best. No one is even close to us in any sport. (We conveniently forget about soccer.)

As Michael Ventura of the Austin Chronicle wrote last February: "No concept lies more firmly embedded in our national character than the notion that the U.S.A. is 'No. 1,' 'the greatest'.... Yet the delusion is ineradicable."

Mr. Ventura went on to list some 30 items he dug up that put the United States' standings in the world to be well short of No. 1.

You don't have to watch "20/20" or "60 Minutes" to know that most of America's manufacturing base is all but gone. We are not much of an empire if we must borrow $2 billion a day in order to operate. Japan, China, Taiwan and South Korea hold 40 percent of our government debt.

For starters: The USA is 49th in the world in literacy. When it comes to mathematical literacy, the U.S. ranks 28 out of 40 countries. Ever notice how so many of our research scientists are from Asia?

Jeremy Rifkin's well-documented book The European Dream: How Europe's Vision of the Future Is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream, found that Americans with less than nine years of education fare worse than all other countries.

Our future science and space textbooks may be written in Hindi or Chinese, because 20 percent of Americans think the sun orbits around the earth.

But before the Asians write our science books, it should be noted that Europe surpassed the U.S. as the largest producer of scientific literature. Future science students may have to use Bulgarian or Albanian encyclopedias.

As usual, our esteemed Congress (which raises it salary at every opportunity) cut funds for our National Science Foundation. Instead of the needed research grants, we don't even tread water, but get far fewer grants.

Lots of Americans did not appreciate Michael Moore's documentary on our health care, but the World Health Organization has ranked the world's countries, and the USA ended up 37th. We spend more per person and get less. Evidence: Congress is messing with Medicare again.

There was a run on a bank or two in mid-July. Folks are getting jittery about the place that holds their money. The old mattress never looked so safe. To buy one Euro you need $1.59 American money. Even Canada Maple Leafs are catching up.

Only six of the 20 largest commercial banks in the world are American. This is getting somewhat repetitious and gloomy. There's more: in a recent survey of the world's 50 best companies, all but one were European.

Afraid to eat store-bought tomatoes? Last year it was lettuce, and the South Koreans still do not want our meat. Huge riots in Seoul tell the government to keep our beef out. Brazil now produces more beef than here.

Last year Toyota began making Tundra pick-ups in San Antonio only to stop this summer because gas guzzlers don't sell now days. GM and Ford are both laying off workers. I see where Brazil is making a car that runs on sugar cane. They have been doing it for 30 years.

The U.S. is importing more food than it is exporting. Brazil has a $30 billion trade surplus, while the U.S.A. has record trade deficits. R.G. Lee's great sermon title fits here: "Payday Someday."

The Lottery is booming. In the U.S. more is spent on gambling than any other kind of entertainment. It is also the most costly as it makes the poor poorer and drains off money for food and shelter from those who need it most.

Torture is sometimes justified, say 43 percent of Americans. President Bush and too many senators and congressmen apparently part of the 43 percent.

Over 79 million eligible voters did not vote in 2004. Torture and the war on terror might have been avoided, if some of the nearly 80 million who do not vote had voted. If that is all we can get to go vote then chanting "We're No. 1" is a joke.

Britt Towery is a free-lance writer in San Angelo, Texas.

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