A Summer Abroad

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Last summer my younger sister spent a month abroad. She had just completed her junior year at Wittenberg College and she was offered a placement in a business studies program at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad. She flew to Copenhagen in July to spend a few weeks in classes with students from various other countries in a program affiliated with the University of Copenhagen and sponsored by the Danish government.

They included excursions to Sweden and Germany in their academic program so students got a taste of societies in those countries too. Whether or not she learned much about business in her short stay in Europe is probably irrelevant, because what she mostly learned abroad was how much America sucks! That’s not what they intentionally set out to teach her, of course but that’s the most significant thing she actually learned and brought back home with her. My sister is not really a political person. That was my area of study in grad-school, but after seeing the stark contrasts between society in Europe and America she has awakened to the vast differences in political systems in Europe from the one we have in America and now she can’t wait to get out of America and live in Europe. My little sister has suddenly become a socialist like me! The advantages of subsidized advanced education, free health-care, modern and efficient public transportation, fair labor practices, and an economy where the rich and the poor are not so unevenly and unjustly divided are things most Americans have been carefully kept ignorant about by their news media and their government. Even my own sister had no idea how bad America has become in comparison to other developed countries until she was exposed to the reality of the way things work in Europe.

My sister TC, short for Tiana Celeste (don’t tell her I told you!) actually fit right in amongst the other students in Denmark. She’s a beautiful blonde, outgoing like her big sister, and a fearless natural leader. She makes friends instantly wherever she goes and unlike me, she looks as Scandinavian as the Swedes and the Danish girls, so everywhere she went people would strike up conversations with her and offer to include her in the local social-life. She knows how to fit in too, so she quickly learned the local customs and the vast differences between American and European society. When she came home she told me that everyone seems happier and less stressed-out in Europe than here in America and I asked her why she thought that was so. She proceeded to tell me all the public benefits and social programs that people in Denmark enjoy and how they pretty much have nothing to worry about. That’s when I explained socialism to her and having seen it in practice, she couldn’t understand what Americans could possibly have against it. I’ve been wondering that for years! We Americans have become the most propagandized society in the western world, at least among its industrialized peers. We believe we still live in a democracy but our electorate has become so mis-informed, fear-mongered and divided by our corporate-controlled establishment that Americans repeatedly vote against their own best interests while their government represents only the interests of the wealthiest few at the top who have bought and paid for our government with contributions, lobbyist patronage and bribes at both the national and state levels.

America once had a great reputation around the world as a shining beacon of democracy, freedom, and economic opportunity, but that was fifty years ago. We have been coasting along on our laurels for the past forty years deluded by such phrases as ‘American exceptionalism’, when in reality the only things we have truly become the exceptions at are the great things we have lost while all the other industrialized countries have raced past us. Since World War II when America was at its peak all the major nations have embraced socialized medicine while our health-care system has become one of the worst in the world. Our infant-mortality rate is now among the highest of the industrialized world while our life-expectancies are dropping and our medical outcomes deteriorate. We have the most-expensive, least accessible health-care system dominated by wealthy insurance conglomerates which profit from keeping health-care denied to the most sick among us. Only the wealthiest Americans have access to decent health-care. Our infra-structure is collapsing around us while we structure our taxes to redistribute wealth from the poor and middle-class to the wealthiest Americans. Never has disparity between the rich and the poor been so inequitable since the Gilded Age of the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries when the gross abuses of unbridled capitalism had to be broken up by the liberal government of Franklin D. Roosevelt and labor-reforms were instituted by the New Deal program. Young Americans can now no longer afford a college education as there is no public investment in secondary education and our young adults spend years paying off exorbitant student-loan debts to private banking interests. Labor has lost nearly all of its former political influence along with its ability to negotiate for fair-wages, benefits, and safe working conditions. Our obscenely large defense budget consumes our national wealth leaving us externally strong and bellicose but internally weak and morally bankrupt.

Americans have the capacity to change course, but they must finally realize that the wealthy have been waging class-warfare against them for forty years using the tax-code which has been made increasingly regressive, systematically moving America’s wealth from the middle-class to the top 1%. They face opposition and obstacles that they never faced when Franklin Roosevelt saved America from the financial royalists 80 years ago. We no longer have a free and independent press, but rather a corporate-owned media which colors its coverage in favor of the wealthy and no longer fights for the poor. We have clandestined political organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council founded by the billionaire Koch Brothers to advance the corporate agenda in government and legislatively destroy the power of labor in America. We are also burdened with a politically-active conservative religious movement which fills Americans with hate for each other, striving to punish gays, liberated women, and secular humanists for being different from the norms of right-wing Christian fanaticism. Another huge obstacle is the new global economy which has left Americans competing against low-wage workers from under-developed countries around the world in a race to the bottom for wages and benefits. The Great Depression filled Americans with fear 80 years ago, but at least the industrial-economy had not been dismantled and only waited for Keynesian stimulus from the federal government to prime the economic pump and re-employ America. Our heavy industrial base no longer exists. It has moved to cheaper labor markets, leaving a permanently unemployed pool of labor now economically dependent on a social safety-net that Republicans are doing everything in their power to eliminate.

On the hopeful side, the Republican Party has become so blatantly racist, sexist, and bigoted; uncaring for any segment of the American people except the rich that its true agenda can no longer be concealed behind super-patriotism and jingoism. Although they have unfairly gerrymandered congressional districts to such an extent that it is nearly impossible to vote them out of office, 2014 offers up an opportunity to do just that when every seat in Congress comes up for re-election as well as many state governorships. And if my kid sister can be made to see the political light, it encourages me that more Americans will turn away from the rightward course towards which this country has been careening, and more equitable, progressive policies can be legislated when the Republicans and their narrow-minded prejudices are finally consigned to the trash-bin of history. America can then join the rest of the industrialized western world where unfettered capitalism has been restrained by socialism and the fair taxation of the wealthy. Europe must realize however that the economic force which has crippled America is working to end socialism in Europe too. The international financial interests of the IMF and the banking cartels keep nations with weak economies deeply burdened in crushing debt so that in downturns they can pressure these economies to implement austerity, the very antithesis of socialism. Without progressive tax structures to rein in the excesses of the super-rich, the common good will always be threatened in every nation by the unchecked power of wealth.

(c) March 16, 2013 – Bethany Ariel Frasier

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4 thoughts on “A Summer Abroad

  1. TC tells the truth and i believe in her…I was thinking of going to the US to meet up with some very good friends and hopefully to get work. After reading this, i realize i should give myself a chance to explore Europe first and get a job then study Culinary. I love my country (Philippines) but if i have the choice to live in another country, i would choose Japan with zero crime rate and at United Kingdom. Though wherever i may go or live, it doesn’t depend on the country but mostly on myself and my principles in life. 🙂

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  2. OMG! I could have written this myself! I KNOW she is telling the truth. I am so glad your sister went there Beth. Thank you for writing it!

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  3. Thanks for this very informative article. I’m truly fearful of the direction this country is headed unless we can change our moral compass.

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