Only the most closed minded American neocon would be unwilling to admit now that America’s prestige in the world has sunk to an all time low. I suspect that situation will not last: it will sink lower still. As the revelations of misdeeds by 43’s deputies continue, our national esteem may end up in worse shape than the self-esteem of an Abu Ghraib prisoner.
There are a number of obvious things we must do to help repair our esteem beyond simply cleaning up the mess we have made of Iraq. Finishing the job in Afghanistan comes to mind. But after our martial tone and retaliatory timbre of the post 9-11 era, none of these obvious deeds has the air of the altruistic nature with which we Americans love to credit ourselves.
What we need here is a fresh idea.
My modest proposal should be obvious as well: to make a serious national effort to help address hunger and illness in the poorest nations of the world. It should be obvious, but we never talk about it in terms of national priority.
Not that I think Americans are hard hearted. Our charitable impulse is appreciated world wide by those that are reached by the numerous relief organizations whose funds are derived from American largess. We are not unique in this regard-the other wealthy nations of the world do much charitable work too, but I am suggesting that we Americans do something more aggressive than what has been seen thus far in this mortal coil.
And while I am partially making this suggestion as something that would serve as a form of penance, there are other sound reasons we should take the lead. Or at least one compelling reason: our unparalleled national wealth. Regardless of this Curmudgeon’s weak bank account, it is hard to ignore that collectively we are extraordinarily wealthy.
The extent of American wealth really hit home in a fresh way with a new statistic that I heard on the Nightly Business Report a day or two ago: if Wal-Mart were an independent nation, it would have the eighteenth largest economy in the world. And some of the countries lower on the list than Wal-Mart would just stun you. This list is a few years old, but it will give you some idea.
While what we do already as individual Americans to help relieve the poor is substantial, I am suggesting a new focus. A national priority to wield this wealth in a way that is only calculated to directly benefit the poor of this world who need our assistance so badly. This type of focus and priority can only come through direct government action and what better time than now for our government to act?
The terrifying part of what I am suggesting is my knowledge of how grossly distorted such an effort would probably become under our pathetic hyper-political ruling class’s “leadership”. I can already see “World War on Poverty” slogans and “Mission Accomplished” banners on the sides of aircraft carriers. I fear that Somalia-style bumbling may be the best we can do.
But, I am casting those fears aside for the moment and asking, “what if we try?”
There certainly is more than a bit of self-interest in the effort-indeed that was my whole premise. But this idea is big enough to in the long run overwhelm the small mindedness that might encourage such an undertaking on the basis of America First.
I’m getting excited just sitting here writing this. Imagine if we were all excited. The potential of the world changing impact there would be if a significant percentage of our GDP were diverted to simple, obvious, compassionate outreach staggers the imagination.
Don’t worry, I haven’t gone off into the idealistic deep-end just yet. There are huge practical obstacles to overcoming starvation and treatable illness in this world, and frankly, I don’t have a plan or the expertise to develop one. Somalia itself shows that we can’t just hold hands, sing “Imagine” in unison and fix much of what is wrong. Rather than rushing headlong into unwise efforts, we should take our time and get it right. Perhaps someone with experience like Bill Gates could head a commission which could develop a useful and worthwhile national plan.
Just because the task would be difficult, there is still no excuse for not trying. There are many parts of the world where we can make a difference and sitting on our incredible wealth is no longer an option for America. 43 likes to tout his Christian values at every turn and I have often called him out for not practicing what he purports to believe. Here is a chance for him, and indeed all of us to demonstrate we are different as we claim to be.
The outrage over Abu Ghraib and other human rights abuses by Americans of late will not die quickly, nor should they. An unprecedented humanitarian effort as I have described will not change that, but it would create an environment where those abuses would no longer loom as huge as they might otherwise.
And that is something that even the neocons should find appealing.