In Don Winslow’s June 22 column, “America Has Always Been Great,” he failed to define what he meant by “great.”
It couldn’t apply to what we did to Native Americans, Africans and Mexicans, and later did to blacks with Jim Crow laws, lynchings and segregation.
It couldn’t apply to today’s epidemic of gun violence, the worst record in the industrialized world where, thanks to the NRA, there are more guns in circulation than there is population.
It couldn’t apply to our dysfunctional Congress, where lobbyists write the laws while members devote all their energies to reelection.
It couldn’t apply to the Wall Street bankers who caused a world-wide Great Recession while continuing to receive large bonuses and avoiding jail.
It couldn’t apply to education or health care, where we rank way down the list of industrialized countries noting those above us on the list are the much maligned “socialized” countries.
It couldn’t apply to the Vietnam and Iraq wars, with tens of thousands of Americans dead and maimed, at great cost for no purpose.
It couldn’t apply to the IRS tax laws where average Americans have higher tax rates on earned income and IRA distributions than the wealthy do on “unearned” income.
It couldn’t apply to George W. Bush, the first president to start two wars and lower taxes, thereby ensuring we can never pay for them.
It couldn’t apply to our justice system, concerned with convictions, not justice, to maintain the highest incarceration rate in the industrialized world.
He probably meant we are the wealthiest country in the world, but as we all know, wealth is not equally distributed, with 500 billionaires as the middle class shrinks and where some once-proud rural areas are now areas of poverty and drug addiction.
He also probably meant we have the most powerful military in the world, but since World War II we have been responsible for killing more civilians of other countries than any other country.
He also probably meant we have the highest standard of living in the world. We had a long economic boom after World War II as the last country still standing, but since 1980, with persistently large national deficits, today’s prosperity is being bought with borrowed money.
We became “great” when, despite humans inhabiting the planet for millennia, America’s founders stumbled onto a continent of boundless untapped natural resources that we are still exploiting. We became a wealthy country in large part due to blind, dumb luck. But based on our recent history, after 400 years, our luck may be running out.