Saturday, February 27, 2016

Is the United States of America the "Greatest Nation?"

It's conditioning.  From the time we are young children in elementary school, we are told repeatedly that we live in the greatest nation on earth.  "The United States of America is the greatest nation."  We are taught that we are so lucky to have been born in the best country there is.  And we believe it.  To say otherwise, or to even question it, is anathema.

Hand vector designed by Freepik
But we ought to question it.  I've questioned it for the last decade.  Off and on for at least ten years my husband and I have both discussed expatriating.  Maybe we eventually will; maybe we won't.  I do not know.  I do know that there are some very horrible nations on this earth in which people must reside, and I'm not in one of them.  I live in the United States, which is a pretty decent place to live.  We enjoy a lot of freedoms and safety, as well as a lot of educational and health advantages.  However, to say we live in the single greatest nation on earth is stretching the truth. Abundantly.

Health and Safety

Let's take, for example, the health of our nation when compared to other nations.  The United States ranked 37th in overall health when WHO assessed the nations in 2000.  A 2014 assessment by The Commonwealth Fund ranked the U.S. last of 11 total nations.  When looking at maternal health alone, we sit at 61st in the world, whereas our child well-being is 42nd in the world, according to the non-profit organization Save the Children.  According to their Mother's Index for the year 2015, the US ranks 33, only because we rank 9th in economic status and 19th in educational status.  The last of five categories that are used to come up with the Mother's Index rating for 179 countries is political status, at which we embarrassingly rank 89th place.

We come in 49th place for life expectancy, at just over 78 years of age, whereas the countries with the two longest life expectancy rates—Monaco and Macau—are just under 90 and nearly 84.5 years, respectively, and the world average is just over 67.

As far as peace and safety goes, the United States ranked 94th place!  That is devastating.  War-torn Syria ranked in toward the very bottom of the list at 162, being labeled the "most violent."  That was the Global Peace Index ranking for 2015.  In 2014, the U.S. came in even worst, at rank 97

In 2010, Transparency International published a Corruption Perceptions Index, in which the USA came in 22nd, where 1 is the "cleanest," and 178 is the "most corrupt."  Somalia is last on the list, which is often the case when comparing all the nations on anything.  While the United States ranks fairly well on this list, it's far from the "greatest."

Then there is the homicide rate for the United States.  We come in 98th place for lowest homicide rate, with 3.8 murders taking place per 100,000 people.  The country with the highest homicide rate is Honduras, coming in 218th place with 84.3 murders per 100k people.  There are 58 nations listed whose rate is below 2 people per 100k and 28 nations whose rate is below one person per 100k.

When we look at homicides by firearms, the United States endures 29.7 firearm homicides per one million people, which is outrageously high when compared to other developed nations.

Javier Zarracina/Vox

It becomes an especially stunning shock if one views the various figures Katie Leach-Kemon collected and published in her article on Humanosphere.  It's despairing when various U.S. cities have firearms homicide rates that match the high numbers of firearms homicide rates of such countries as Honduras, El Salvador, and Mexico.  


The Pearson Index ranked the United States at 14 overall in the year 2014, which breaks down as 11th for cognitive skills and 20th for educational attainment.  Nations like Japan, Canada, Denmark, and Germany, as well as nine others, all beat us.  In the year of 2012 we ranked 17th. While our great USA's students are improving in math and science, we still rank 35th and 27th, respectively, out of 64 countries, according to Pew Research Center.

Employment and Vacation/Holidays

Employment rates are ever-changing, probably more than any other factor I've so far discussed, but in 2011 we suffered an unemployment rate of 9.2%.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it was higher—at 9.8%—in 2010.  Thankfully it's continued to go down, but as of 2015, according to the CIA Factbook, we still possessed a rate of 5.2%, which is 56th place out of 207 nations.  So much for being the greatest nation when 55 nations have higher employment rates for their citizens than we do.

As far as vacation and holidays go, we live in the only developed nation that does not mandate, by law, that citizens receive paid time off.  Nations in the European Union all require at least four weeks of paid vacation.  According to a U.S.A. Today article, "Austria, which guarantees workers the most time off, has a legal minimum of 22 paid vacation days and 13 paid holidays each year. The average private sector U.S. worker receives 16 paid vacation days and holidays. One in four Americans does not have a single paid day off" (Hess, "On Holiday").

Family Life and Happiness 

As if the subpar deal for vacation and holidays isn't bad enough, the U.S. also does not ensure its citizens receive paid leave when a child is born.  It doesn't even give mothers more than twelve weeks of "protected leave," which is to say unpaid leave with a guarantee of being able to return to work at the end of that time.  A nursing mother who works, if she manages to save enough back for her time at home, must return to work in roughly three months, which is far too early to have to leave a child with someone else, especially considering pumping in the workplace is not accommodated well in our nation.  I should think protected leave should last at least six months, and pumping accommodations should be made after the mother returns to work.

The United States did not earn a spot in the top ten happiest countries in the world in the World Happiness Report for 2015.  I do not think it ever has.  Of the happiest cities in the world, ranked just this year of 2016 by Mercer's Quality of Living Ranking, the highest-ranked U.S. city came in at 28th place (San Francisco). 

Environmental Cleanliness 

We sadly cannot expect to place very well in this category due to all the neglectful climate-change-deniers and lazy citizens who don't give a shit about where their trash goes or what chemicals are unleashed into the environment.  As a naturalist who highly appreciates this beautiful planet we call home, this subject provokes a lot of anger in me.

This top ten list of the cleanest nations in the world, derived by researchers at Yale- and Columbia Universities, does not include the United States.  As always, it includes some of the Scandinavian nations, as well as other nations, like Singapore and Switzerland, that often feature in the best lists concerning other categories.

Democratic Ranking

Americans here like to brag about our government and hold it as superior above all other nations of the earth.  While we do practice some good democratic socialistic practices in our nation, we fall short of being the best.  We are well on our way to becoming an oligarchy ruled by the wealthy who would strip liberties and wealth from the nation's main populace, and the pseudo-Christians are assisting toward this direction.

Here is a screenshot from the BlankCAF Democracy Index for 2008:

I wondered how often whether that was updated and looked to see whether I could find an index for the year 2015.  Here it is, with the United States falling from the 18th in the democratic index to 20th:

A dear friend of mine who lives in my area is originally from Denmark, and so I was delighted to read an article a few days ago about the democratic socialist government of Denmark, which I highly recommend.  It was written by an American expat who has lived in Denmark since 1991.

Economic Freedom

The 2016 Index of Economic Freedom by Heritage categorizes countries as free, mostly free, moderately free, mostly unfree, repressed, and unranked.  There are five countries—Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland, and Austria—who are ranked free.  We are ranked in the "mostly free" category in 11th overall place.  On the Heritage website, it says, "Economic freedom is a crucial component of liberty. It empowers people to work, produce, consume, own, trade, and invest according to their personal choices."  We rank well, but we are not ranked #1 in economic freedom.

Children's Rights

I own this wonderful book that I've read to my children.  What is sad is that the United States is the only country, besides lawless, always-ranked-worst-on-everything Somalia, who has not signed on to the U.N.'s treaty on the rights of children.  It is not only embarrassing, it's a terrible disgrace!

I remember hearing about a decade or so ago about this treaty on a popular national pseudo-Christian radio station and how they were strongly opposed to the U.S. ratifying this treaty.  It's disgusting.  The pseudo-Christians want to be able to hurt their children and to not allow them to believe in which religion they choose and so on.  That is the real reason why the U.S. is alone with Somalia, of all countries, to not ratify this very important treaty that has improved the lives of children the world over.  One of the ways in which many children's lives have been improved as a result of this treaty is bringing children out of poverty.  How does the U.S. rank in child poverty?
Among the OECD countries, the U.S. ranked, as of 2010, 30th out of 34 nations!  The "great" nation of the United States ranks 30th in child poverty!  Over 21 percent of U.S. children in 2010 lived in poverty.  Chile, Turkey, Mexico, and Israel were the four that ranked worse than we did.

So, is there anything in which the United States ranks "the greatest" in?  It turns out that there are a few things we win at.

Almost Most Generosity

This is a good thing.  We came in second last year on the World Giving Index, after Myanmar, but  we have come in first before, and we've also tied for first place with Myanmar at least once previously. 

Greatest Wealth (GDP)

Aha!  Finally we rank "greatest" in something, and that, my friends, is that we top the charts in gross domestic product.  In other words, we produce the most and win the "wealthiest" title, even though we're in such deep debt that I'm not quite sure we can accurately be called the wealthiest once that's factored in.  Now, according to something called purchasing power parity (PPP), we rank number two in GDP, following China in first place.  Follow the link to learn more.

Greatest Number of Prisoners

Certainly not something about which to boast, I managed think of something else in which we rank number 1.  We lock up more of our fellow citizens than any other nation in the world.  Although the United States is home to only about 4.5 percent of the world's population, over one-fifth—nearly a quarter—of the entire world's prison population is locked away in prisons in our nation.  This is astounding.  We do not rank toward the top of safest nations, either, or lowest in crime.  Around a quarter of prisoners in the U.S. are imprisoned for drug offenses, around half of those in federal prison, according to DrugWarFacts.Org.  Not only should people not be locked up for drug abuse—they need help—but a large percentage of our population is made up of responsible users (not abusers) of illegal drugs.  Most stats report anywhere from a quarter to a third of adults as users of cannabis, and I'm confident this is accurate.  People from all walks of life are using cannabis.  As for those with serious drug problems, especially those using dangerous drugs like methamphetamine and heroin, our country needs to get these people help and also ban and restrict some of the pharmaceutical drugs that people are becoming addicted to and leads them to heroin use.

Being the biggest producer because we slave everyone to death in the name of celebrating mammon, setting aside vacation and holidays and family leave and using our wealth to look down on everyone else as if we are the best; and locking everyone up for using drugs and refusing to help those who are addicted does not make us the "greatest nation on earth."

If you are one of the many who have believed this lie and feel that everyone else is inferior, it's time to swallow your pride.  Our nation's people need to humble themselves and look to some of these other nations who have a lot of things figured out quite a bit better than we do.  They are setting some good examples for us that we'd be wise to follow.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

If I Was God...#3

 If I was God, I would not tempt my children to do evil.  The biblical book of Genesis talks about a god or gods setting up a tempting tree called The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and instructing his/their newly-made human couple to not eat from it, else they'd face execution.

Of course, the story is nonsense in so many ways, and I've already laid that out in depth in the following posts:

A Liar and Murderer From the Beginning

The Tree Story is Impossible

The Tree Story is Impossible: Part 2

Knowledge of Good and Evil: Good or Evil?

But let's pretend the story is real.  Let's pretend an advanced being created all living things on this planet and set up that tempting tree.  Why did he set up a tree with that name?  Why would he create a tree whose fruit would help you know right from wrong and then threaten to kill you if you ate from it?

But then let's go further and ask why any god would tempt any human or other animal to do something that he would exact punishment for if said human or animal gave into temptation.  That is the big question here. 

Many years ago, when my firstborn was an infant, I read a sample few pages online of a book entitled To Train Up a Child by Michael and Debi Pearl.  I was quickly horrified by the contents.  In the years since I've read other excerpts posted all over the Internet by others who have read the entire book and were also appalled.  The book is basically a child abuse manual, but it uses the bible to justify the abuse.  It's pretty crazy that some of us read the bible and came away with a stronger-than-ever desire to treat our children with gentleness and respect and to strive to guide our children the way Jesus would do so, and yet other people apparently have read the bible and think they need to act as fierce dictators, tyrannically and cruelly oppressing their children.

Since I've read the Genesis story just as it is, though, as well as all the other horrible stories like God mind-fucking the Egyptian pharaoh, I understand.  I see how these people get these ideas and justify them.  Of course, I do believe that people who naturally want to teach lovingly and lead by example, like Jesus, are prone to grab ahold of those teachings for confirmation, whereas people who are naturally tyrannical are drawn to the twisted parts of the bible in order to confirm their desired methods.

In the aforementioned book, the authors spoke of deliberately enticing infants with pretty objects and then hitting them after the infant grabbed the items.  It also discusses horrors unrelated to temptations, like pushing a child in a pond to teach them not to play near it, making a child touch a hot surface to teach them they can be burned, and pulling a little four-month-old infant's hair when he or she bites during nursing when their teething gums hurt!

If I don't want my children doing something, I try to get them not to do it.  I sure as hell do not deliberately entice them to do something I truly do not want them to do!  What in the world?!  Who has ever heard of such an insane concept?!

When I tempt, I want the person to do something.  That is what tempting is all about.  If a parent is tempting a child in a case in which the end goal is to punish that child, the parent is a sick individual and not fit to parent.

If I was God, I would not tempt my creation to do what I deemed as evil and worthy of death.

This has been #3 in the "If I Was God..." series at