Our American Arrogance

Recent federal policies are putting our international standing at risk.

Traditionally our moral standing as a world power lay in our persistent efforts to exemplify democracy, support international development, welcome strangers, and maintain a lead in technical, scientific, and environmental innovation – all while maintaining our financial and military hegemony in a fragile world.

The notion that we know better than our neighbors and have nothing to learn from them is little more than a form of national racism – an arrogance that denies the fundamentals of learning: curiosity, open-mindedness, and collaboration.

We are beset by internal problems like the cost, quality, and access to home ownership, health care and nutrition, education and a crumbling transportation infrastructure. We’re burdened by over-incarceration and the scourge of opiate addiction, even as we’re surrounded by nations quietly trying out and implementing promising solutions.

Take Norway for example. Recidivism there is 20%; here it’s 76%. They use restorative rather than punitive justice and are world leaders in safely returning offenders to society – while sadly, our justice department is not only creating new crimes, they’re stepping up prosecutions.

Finland has one of the best educational systems in the world, ranking near the top in the Program for International Student Assessment – or PISA – ratings, while we rank 36th. In Finland, teaching is one of the most respected and best remunerated professions. Time for play is integrated into the early grades and college is free. What can we learn from them?

In a recent assessment of world health care systems, the World Health Organization found that France provides the best overall health care in the world, spending 11.6% of GDP on health care. We spend closer to 20% of GDP for far less access and much poorer outcomes.

Portugal made addiction a medical issue, decriminalized all drugs and established accessible treatment centers. But here only 10% of addicts seeking treatment can find it. Portugal’s drug mortality rate is the lowest in Europe and 1/50th the death rate here. Yet Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently announced the Justice Department is going to prosecute marijuana crime aggressively in defiance of new state laws.

We have so very much to learn. Arrogance is a façade for ignorance and insecurity – serving only to isolate us and deny us access to the whole rest of the world, as our neighbors go about creative problem solving… without us.

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