🇳🇴 → 🇺🇸
On very sunny day, in a place where sunny days are rare, my wife and I ate lunch at an outdoor cafe. We sat next to a mother and daughter and, since we did not pay for roaming Internet service, and we wanted to check on our flight back to the USA, the woman offered to let us use her phone. We declined the request, feeling pretty sure the flight was on-time, but we continued to converse with the woman.
She told us that she had lived in the U.S. for three years and that she really enjoyed her time there. She and her husband had good jobs, and her daughter was born there, so this nine year-old sitting next to us, was an American citizen. The woman said that the Americans they knew were very friendly, and it was easy to feel part of the community in the university town in which they were living.
However, they were in America from 2007–2009. They experienced how, within months, some of their friends had gone from being happy, secure and employed, to being unemployed and losing their incomes, health insurance and even their homes. She and her husband decided that, although there may be opportunities in America, the risks are not worth it, Even the most “successful” people lived with a very high level of anxiety and stress. Constant risk and constant competition do not lead to a high quality of life. And now, from across the ocean, America seemed so angry, mean and divided.
In her country they pay very high taxes, but they are happy to do it because they don’t have to worry about the things that are constantly stressing Americans. These things include: health care, child care from age one, after a year of paid parental leave. Free education from kindergarten through graduate school. elder care and nursing home care. A clean, reliable, efficient, public transportation service that included trains, trams, buses and ferries. Beautiful, and well maintained parks, hiking trails, and recreation areas. A lot of government subsidized art, entertainment and cultural events. They have also taken in an increased number of refugees and had a more diverse population than I expected. They do not have problems with this, but they control the flow of entry.
They also have the highest per-capita income in the world, And Business Insider rated them as having the highest quality of life for the second year in a row.
However, the weather is a negative: cold, rainy, snowy, cold.
Like America, this country has a history of violence, of invading, plundering and even of slavery. However, they moved away from most of that about a thousand years ago, and have settled in to a more peaceful, and now socialist, way of life. Part of that way of life is subsidized by their natural resources, mostly gas and oil, which are nationalized. The government sells their oil and gas on the world market and uses that money to enhance the lives of all of the citizens. That plan works here, better than say, Venezuela or Saudi Arabia.
This country isn’t perfect at all, but it is doing a lot of things right. It would take a great leap of imaginative thinking to bring this kind of peace, pride and cooperation to a place as diverse as The United States. America has a long history of letting individuals and corporations run the major industries, such as oil, gas, coal, railroads, steel, automobiles, and now high-tech and bio-tech. Often these industries receive government subsidies, tax credits and other supports to do more research and development, or even bailouts just to survive. This allows a few people to make great fortunes, with government help. This was acceptable for about 130 years following the Civil War because a majority of the rest of the people were living solid, middle class lives, working for many of these companies, or working in much smaller businesses. After struggles, they felt protected by unions or trade guilds. As long as the middle class was comfortable, the rich could stay rich and powerful, without too much worry.
But now, the middle class in America is crumbling and disappearing. The rich have to do more maneuvering and manipulating to maintain their riches, power and influence. So far, what they have done, and done successfully, has been to turn the middle class against the poor, and the poor against the immigrants. Rather than learn to appreciate the benefits of building a stronger, tighter, more cooperative society, they have acted as if the myth of “every person can control their own destiny” is something that is really true in the 21st Century. They ignore the fact that we live in a time when all of our lives are much more intertwined and connected than ever, and it will only become more so in the future. Our economy, and all other aspects of our quality of life depend upon all of us doing well. We have seen that a rising tide only raises the big yachts. The majority of people capsize in their wake.
What becomes clear from across the ocean is that America has the resources, the knowledge and the ability to lead the world in adapting to the demographics and technologies of the 21st Century. But, so far, we have rejected that, even though we are the ones who have created most of that technology. America, the great economic dynamo, has become afraid of change, and afraid of it’s own shadow. Many people walk around carrying guns to protect them from…what? Black people, their own government? ISIS? Muslims? Liberals?
Later that afternoon, as we were boarding our plane for the seven hour flight home, I was pulled out of line and my passport was taken. I had to sit for fifteen minutes on the “Group W Bench.” The a local airport security guard took me into a small, unfurnished room and asked me who I was, where I was going, and where I had been. He said I was chosen at random, apologized and told me he had nothing to do with who was chosen. I told him I had a U.S. Global Entry Card. He said that didn’t matter here. He patted me down and had me take off my shoes. . He asked me where my cell phone was. I told him it was in my jacket, on the floor. He said ”Oh,” and didn’t look at it. He took about twenty seconds to look through my backpack.
I asked him if this search was for his country or the U.S. He looked at me and shrugged, “TSA.” Then he opened the door. As we left I said, “We are living in a crazy time.” “No, he said, It’s VERY crazy.”
They screened about a dozen people. It made the plane take off late. We landed late and the gate we were assigned had been taken so we had to wait another half hour for a gate. Once in the airport I could skip the long customs line and go to the Global Entry screen, scan my passport, answer two question on the computer and go home. That saved me at least an hour of waiting in line.
It’s a good thing that Osama Bin Laden is dead, or else he would be thrilled and amazed at the magnitude the impact he has had a bringing this country to its knees and ripping it apart..