Other Voices: Please don’t weep for America
Perhaps I can help Mr. Crosswhite dry his tears about our nation, (“America, I weep for you,” The Union, Other Voices, Thomas Crosswhite, March 16). An important strength of Ameri-cans has been our positivistic outlook for our nation’s future. Even in the depths of the 1930s Great Depression and personally in World War II’s Philippine jungles, we felt assured that our country’s economic strength, dedication, weaponry, training, leadership and close group bonding would prevail.
Most Americans believe the positive side of the Chinese dictum, “Do you lament that the teacup is half empty, or do you rejoice the teacup is half full?” The GI Bill provided the opportunity to learn a saleable profession that has enabled me to repay that investment many fold in taxes, purchases and helping provide education for my children and grandchildren.
I do not, nor expect others, to naively overlook America’s challenges; rather to explore both the cup’s fullness as well as its emptiness. A half-full item is the innate appreciation we have for our Constitution, predicated on the principle that reasonable and informed citizens can disagree without being unreasonable.
I have lived and worked in 30 nations, some ruled by despotic monarchs, corrupt generals, as well as nations developing rapidly economically by exploiting poor and illiterate citizens with their unbridled private sector monopolies, and without concern for citizens’ health by increasing toxicity in water, soil and air. These variously have been called socialist, communist, democratic monarchies, and the need to break eggs (people) to make omelets (the overall public good). A half-empty item is our rabid-like polarization and attributing venality to those with whom we disagree. That polarization sometimes confuses socialism (no private sector) with social programs (that all governments provide).
A sad example of polarization endangering us all is the strident mantra to keep health care from our poor citizens and undocumented immigrants. We interact daily with people both without health care as well as those prevented from health care. Viral and bacterial infections do not discriminate between the haves, the less fortunate, and pays no regard to our documentation. We all are daily confronted both with airborne and on-surface infections. Costs for preventive care are minuscule compared to emergency care.
A few years ago, I carried out one of the first Infectious Medical Waste Management surveys by the United Nations in Southeast Asia. I examined infectious waste in hospitals, rural clinics and elite private sector health facilities, including out-patient care, surgeries, waste sterilization and post-mortem practices. Lack of safe management has magnified morbidity-mortality in many nations. The 104 F. temperatures and 95 percent humidity exposed me to drug-resistant TB and pneumonia, hepatitis B and C, HIV/Aids plus innumerable other maladies.
I flew straight back to California. I could have infected many people in airports, shops, restaurants and restrooms. In addition, our U.S. nosocomial (hospital-clinic acquired) infections have risen.
Among the half-full items is the characteristic generosity we Americans have for assisting individuals, communities and nations suffering from catastrophic events. Individuals, schools, service clubs and faith-based organizations donate more time, materials and cash to others than from most other nations. Another of many other examples of “Good America” is the almost 50-year-old U.S Peace Corps (with many private sector contracts and participation). Almost 200,000 volunteers have served in 179 nations. Imagine that many Greg Mortensen types assisting in teaching, clinics, safe water and sanitation systems in thousands of towns and rural villages.
Our United States always has been a work-in-progress. We need increased and better governance, education, health care, citizen participation and sweat.
Tears, hate, racism and polarization dilute rather than contribute to our challenges.
Donald M. Foster lives in Grass Valley.
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