I really did not want anything to do with the final presidential debate; frankly these debates are starting to make me rage. Of course circumstances put me in a situation where I ended up listening to parts of the last debate and catching the running commentary on twitter.
The debates are simply good theater, the candidates are putting on a show for us and since most Americans are too busy to actually read/research the candidates we look to the debates to tell us all we need to know about the candidates. The funny thing, is that the debates and the entire election season with the campaigning and the billions of dollars being spent to one up the competition, shows us just how not exceptional we are as a nation despite this belief we hold that we are an exceptional nation.
I will take Obama any day over Romney, but that doesn’t mean I am jumping with joy because the truth is presidents for all the power they hold are essentially Cheerleaders in Chief. As this recent piece in the New York Times covers, no one who wants to truly make deep, systemic changes in this country is going to be elected and if they do, they will learn real soon, that we as a nation only like surface change. To create change is to acknowledge publicly that we have problems and when you think America is the “hope of the world” it can be hard to admit that the only thing we are excelling at these days locking up our citizens. Yep, America is the winner in the “Race to the Cell”.
For those of us who work with the most vulnerable among us, there is a growing sense of frustration as we see that poverty in this nation has changed. The face of poverty has changed and it looks more and more like us. Our smartphones and cars may hide those facts and the stiff upper lipped American way of keeping our financial lives private, hides a great deal. Ask any social service provider what they are seeing and they will tell you, that today’s client in need is just as likely to be a college educated person with no easily solvable problems and a solid work history as the stereotypical single mother with no education. It’s just easier to have the appearance of still being financially stable when we who are experiencing the economic downturn personally, still have the accoutrements and trappings from our formerly middle class lives. It also doesn’t hurt that many of us and I include myself since in recent years I have struggled financially are reluctant to share our business and talk about how bad things have gotten for us.
To some degree we have no one to blame but ourselves when we see politicians not discussing the issues that affect the millions who struggle daily to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. After all why would politicians want to discuss those issues when we ourselves can barely admit to family and friends that we have hit hard times? Yet in a nation that is sinking, we need to talk, and talk often on these issues.
Child poverty is a very real issue in this country; I see it every day at my job. Child poverty is the only reason I have a job at the moment. Out of the 35 most economically advantaged nations, America and her exceptional self, ranks number 34 in child poverty. That means you see child poverty too but don’t notice it because we expect child poverty to be a black, brown or tan face in a third world country. However ask any school teacher in America and they will tell you what child poverty looks like because they see it in the classroom. It’s Suzie who comes to school and has a bellyache every morning, because she is not getting enough to eat and her parents are too pride filled with American exceptional-ism to fill out the paperwork that would officially label them needy so that Suzie can actually have a full belly and focus at school. Instead we say Suzie has attention deficit issues, which is easier to acknowledge than the fact that Suzie is going hungry in a nation of plenty. Ask Suzie how exceptional America is when at a tender young age she knows food is not a given. I see American exceptional-ism every day at my center when the same group of kids is more eager to eat the snack then to play in a fun activity after school. Not too damn exceptional if you ask me.
Our infant mortality rates are horrid for such an exceptional nation and social mobility here is a myth compared to most of Europe, Canada and Australia. Yet half of America is looking at Mitt Romney and his “success” and despite the fact that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have no fucks to give for the little guy, they will vote for these guys because the Horatio Alger myth is deeply ingrained in our psyche. This belief that hard work will turn us into millionaires is the lie we tell ourselves because we can’t handle the truth.
The problem with avoiding the real discussion on how unexceptional America and what our real issues are is that we keep putting a patch on the roof when really what is needed is a new roof. Eventually the patch job will fail and when it does, it is taking the whole damn house with it.