Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The View from There

There was a short little piece on the radio today about American expats living in Britain. Apparently there are about 250,000 there, my sister included. Anyway, the question posed was essentially what it would take to get them to move back to America.

First, let it be said that the handful of folks interviewed did not necessarily represent the majority or minority view, just a handful of folks. Second, not a single one had an "absolutely no way" attitude (which is what my sister more or less claims). And yet, each had a legitimate grievance that would need to be remedied before returning. One of them wanted more economic stability and government oversight. Another wanted universal health care and better social services. A third wanted a recognition of gay marriage that would provide all the rights they enjoyed throughout the UK. And yet all noted that even were the U.S. amenable to these changes, they doubted the country would now have the budget or resources to make them a reality. Frankly, it was embarassing to think America, formerly a beacon of hope and a good example for the rest of the world, has been relegated to second class status, out of touch and behind the times.

My parents like to argue, chauvinistically, that America is better off - safer, more secure, all that stuff - than most other countries, and particularly Europe. Apparently, despite several recent visits to the Continent, they haven't been convinced that, contrary to their various prejudices, it's the U.S. that's teetering on the brink of collapse. I mean, I hope I'm wrong. I hope the country pulls through. But at the same time, we're probably overdue. Europe languished for decades before its current boom. Japan and much of Asia did likewise. South America and Africa have barely held on for dear life. And now it's our turn in the doldrums. More and more it's looking like 1980, the proverbial morning in America, except this time it's a democrat who's the Reagan-esque rescuer, and the republicans who are the incompetents.

There's always blame to go around, and you can look back as far as you want until you find a scapegoat that strikes your fancy. Stop at Clinton, if you like. Or the the first Bush. Or Reagan or Carter. But like 9/11, in the end the blame falls squarely on the man in charge at the time. This is what it's come to. For what may be the first time ever, we've had a president that has not just negated ten years or more of progress, but actually taken us backwards.


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