American Myths – American Exceptionalism

For this Question Everything Friday I want to bring you another dangerous myth that is ingrained into our country. That is that we are so exceptional that you can’t be compared to any other country.  Here is my quote for the day about that.

We can’t compare America to any other country! Especially not strange, dangerous countries like Scandinavia or France! We can’t? Why not? How else do you suppose that nations make progress — if not by learning from one another? Americans have been told that other places are “homogeneous”, so America can’t be compared to them — but “homogeneity” is not the reason they are successful societies. There are many more “homogeneous” societies which are failures than successes, just look at Asia and Africa — so homogeneity can’t be why some societies succeed, self-evidently. This myth is exceptionalism, only in a negative form — no comparison is possible. But it is a comparative analysis which teaches us the most when it comes to political economy. Have you ever wondered why you don’t know (probably) how exactly the French retirement system works? How the British healthcare system works? How the Swiss government works? Americans still haven’t learned this stuff because no one teaches it to them — and no one teaches it to them because the myth of exceptionalism says there’s no reason to learn it. 
via Eight Myths Americans Need to Unlearn About America

The way I personally learn almost everything is to see how others are doing it better them me and to try at one level or another to emulate them. If you have been around for a while you have probably noticed that the general format and look of RJsCorner seems to frequently change. I do that because I am constantly looking for ways to make the site more pleasant to visit and to give you my view of the world in more concise stories. If I didn’t have something to compare this site to improvements would be far less frequent.

In that same vein, we as a country need to constantly look at others who do things better than we do. Our reluctance to do that greatly hampers us from creating better and better processes. It has allowed other countries to leapfrog around us when it comes to healthcare, retirement systems and such. It was almost an epiphany to understand we are never taught to look outside our country for ways to do things better.  That is a lesson we MUST learn…

Seeking Wisdom – James Madison

Another of the major sources of wisdom I frequently visit is the fourth president of the U.S. James Madison. There are a number of reasons for that admiration, not the least of which are the similarity between Madison and myself. He was 5′ 7″ and small stature while most of the other famous people during that period were broad-shouldered and well over 6′.  Since he was a little guy he had to work harder than many to get the attention he deserved. I am currently 5′ 7″ myself (although I was over 5′ 9″ before old age and compression fractures took me down a few inches). Two of my best friends growing up were over 6′ tall so I was also the little guy in the group.

Madison was an intellectual with an amazing ability for logic and organization. That is what made him so valuable during the Constitutional Convention and got him the moniker of the “Father of the Constitution”. Although I can’t begin to mirror his mighty accomplishments I too am somewhat of an intellectual (IQ in the 130s) and have always had a pendent for organization and writing. So I feel a closeness to Madison that I don’t feel for many other famous people.

When I visited his home  Montpelier in Virginia, it was a rare treat for me. His house was not the mansions of Mount Vernon or the Hermitage that I would visit a few days later. 

It was a wonderful time visiting Montpelier and getting a little closer to my hero James Madison.

When I seeking wisdom, I frequently look at Madison’s words.

Explaining Our Times…

Ok, I admit that I have been retired from the workforce for almost two decades now, so aside from what I read I am pretty much ignorant of it. When I left the workforce the mantra was “Do more with less”. Many of my coworkers were being laid off and I was told that I had to do their jobs in addition to my own.  I couldn’t imagine a more stressful situation today.

When I came across this article by By Ruth Whippman in the New York Times it helped me to have more empathy for today’s middle-class workers.  Ms. Whippman is the author of “America the Anxious: Why Our Search for Happiness Is Driving Us Crazy and How to Find It for Real.” I think I will pick up an e-copy of her book to understand it more. Here are the snippets from the article I want to concentrate on:

In this cutthroat human marketplace, we are worth only as much as the sum of our metrics, so checking those metrics can become obsessive. What’s my Amazon ranking? How many likes? How many retweets? How many followers? (The word “followers” is in itself a clear indicator of something psychologically unhealthy going on — the standard term for the people we now spend the bulk of our time with sounds less like a functioning human relationship than the P.R. materials of the Branch Davidians.)…

This is the future, and research suggests that it’s a rat race that is already taking a severe toll on our psyches. A 2017 study suggests that this trend toward increasingly market-driven human interaction is making us paranoid, jittery, self-critical and judgmental.

Source: New York Times Nov 24, 2018

One of the two main points of this article is that more and more companies are outsourcing their work. They no longer employ their own workforce but instead contract it out. 

The second point is that our social media has become critical to our future success. We need to show that we are popular and influential in order to get that “perfect” job. If our “likes” aren’t high enough it will raise suspicion. Being told that finding that perfect job is now totally our responsibility. That alone is tons of pressure for so many young people.  It’s no wonder that the suicide rate among this young group is so high!

I’m going to stop here with this particular post. But I suspect that I will be revisiting this topic in more detail after I have read the author’s book.

The County Fair

What could be more American than the small rural county fair?  I have had the pleasure of living in one of the smallest population wise counties in Indiana for almost two decades now.  While I don’t go to all the annual county fairs I enjoy the ones I have attended.  The pictures here are from our first visit in 2002.  So, all the kids in these pictures are now high school graduates. 😋

Bluster…

David Brooks from the New York Times and the PBS Newshour recently used a word I haven’t heard in a long time. That word is the title of this post and here is the definition. This word just seems soooo appropriate for someone we all know. I don’t even have to mention his name.  

If there is any single word that can possibly contain who this guy is, bluster is it. He is certainly loud, totally aggressive, as indignant as anyone I could ever imagine.  He refuses to believe in facts other than the ones he made up.

But I think the last part of this definition will certainly apply now that we have a Democratic House of Representatives.  They will do their best to assure that aggressive indignant bluster has little effect.  All we have to do now is to sit back and wait for January 20, 2021, and he can take his bluster wherever he wants, as long as it is out of my sight.

Good riddance to horrid bluster.

Thanks David for resurrecting this word for me…

What If Jesus Meant All That Stuff

Shane Claiborne is one of my favorite Christian authors. He definitely lives the words of Jesus and he is not bashful when it comes to telling others that Talk is cheap and actions are where you demonstrate your beliefs.

At one point Gandhi was asked if he was a Christian, and he said, essentially, “I sure love Jesus, but the Christians seem so unlike their Christ.” A recent study showed that the top three perceptions of Christians in the U. S. among young non-Christians are that Christians are 1) antigay, 2) judgmental, and 3) hypocritical. So what we have here is a bit of an image crisis, and much of that reputation is well deserved. That’s the ugly stuff. And that’s why I begin by saying that I’m sorry.
via Shane Claiborne – Letter to Non-Believers by Shane Claiborne

Sadly for many, the Bible Belt Trumpsters now represent Jesus’ church. They very much confirm what the non-Christians see as hypocrites and very narrow-minded people. Maybe that is one of the reasons I no longer say I am a Christian, I am just tired of apologizing for these people.

I realize that many if not the majority of Christian churches try at one level or another to be good followers of their founder Jesus.  They read some texts in their Bible and vow, at least vocally, to follow his words.  But there are too many other words that they blatantly ignore. Maybe they see them as too hard so they just pretend they don’t exist?

Maybe they have been told for too long that Christianity has nothing to do with how you act, the only thing that matters is what you believe, so why bother with the hard stuff? I just wish those folks would open their Bibles and read some of the stuff they have not evidently discovered yet.

In conclusion, the sad part of all this “hypocrite” views of the non-religious is that those who do see others as their neighbors in need and do good works in His name are so silent when it comes calling out the real hypocrites. The rest of us need to quit apologizing for these type people and proudly stand up for Jesus’ actual words