I am going to name a series of nations: Canada, France, Germany, Denmark, Australia, and Spain. Now I’m going to list another group of nations: Iran, Saudi Arabia, China, North Korea, and the United States. The first group of countries have all abolished the death penalty. The second collection of nations, by contrast, all kill people under color of law.
Yes, I have cherry picked a particular fact to place the United States in with a rather rogues gallery of states when the U.S., as a major first world industrialized nation, fits in better, in the overall picture, with Canada, Great Britain, et al. But that’s precisely the point. On a range of issues, from capital punishment to health care to parental leave and beyond, the United States, an ostensibly first world nation, lags behind the rest of the civilized world.
The United States is the only industrialized nation in the Americas or Europe that still practices capital punishment. The U.S. is alone amongst first world countries in refusing to provide universal healthcare. The U.S. is the only industrialized nation that does not give mothers paid maternity leave. The U.S. is also the only industrialized nation with a major political party that refuses to accept the reality of man made climate change. And it’s not surprising that said party is anti-science because it’s the party that panders to fundamentalist yokels who believe that Adam and Eve rode to school on dinosaurs seven days after God created the earth a little over 6000 years ago. It’s also the party that coddles rich people and kicks poor people, just the way Jesus intended! When presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, not a member of said crazy party, speaks out against economic injustice and income inequality, he is simply calling America to find its basic civility and join the rest of the industrialized world.
Civilized nations do not execute people. Civilized nations do not deny people access to health care. Civilized nations do not force women to use their own accrued work time to cover maternity leave. Civilized nations do not allow the 450 richest individuals, a teeny tiny sliver of the one percent, to own as much combined wealth as the bottom 150 million members (the bottom half!) of their population. Civilized nations do not wage wars of choice and invade countries that never attacked them. Civilized nations do not use waterboarding and other torture methods on prisoners of war. Civilized nations do not seriously consider for their highest office the sort of man who calls for banning members of a particular religion, deporting undocumented residents, and denying sanctuary to refugees. Nor do they seriously consider for high office the type of man who fantasizes about carpet bombing an entire region to see if the sand will glow.
American Exceptionalism is a slogan bandied about by the very people who support the policies that keep America from providing its citizens with a guaranteed social safety net, thus making America, well, an exception amongst first world countries. I don’t want American Exceptionalism. I’d be happy to see America simply join the rest of the civilized world.