Rob's Soapbox Archives

May 17th, 2010


Years ago I wrote that kids were gonna die and we need to let them; not a very popular sentiment, but a true one. The premise was and remains our ongoing obsession with over-protecting and sterilizing ourselves from the inevitable necessity that life sucks, hurts and at times, is dangerous. A specific example I used was the ongoing march to force, legislatively, children to wear helmets when they ride their bikes under the guise of making them safer, which it has not done; the same number of children die today as a result of bicycling accidents that did decades ago. Helmets do not protect the spine and neck from breaking, which is the result of a multi-ton vehicle plowing into an 80 pound human being.

Helmet laws were not forced upon us because we wanted to stop children from dying; if we really wanted kids to be as protected as possible from death, we would make it illegal for them to ride in cars; that’s how the vast majority of them are killed; riding in cars, next to their parents. No, helmet laws were forced upon us to make us feel good; make us feel as though we were doing something to protect our kids even though we weren’t. Additionally, America as a nation has become less and less capable of seeing crying children; and helmets, while basically worthless as a tool to prevent cycling deaths are useful in preventing head bumps and scrapes.

And that’s the problem; kids must and should fall down, cry and learn. Breaking bones, requiring stitches and paying a price for making stupid decisions and taking unnecessary risks is a vital and mandatory way to become a functioning adult. We are instead teaching our children to be afraid of the world and all of its dangers and consequences by shielding them from them. It’s tragic.

It’s also spreading. We continue as a society and a nation to be so fundamentally out of touch with the harsh reality of the world we live in and the fact that even America’s exceptionalism has its’ limits that it is harming us at even greater levels today than ever before.

It was once argued that America’s prosperity came with responsibility. We mustn’t, goes the premise, ignore the suffering of the rest of the world while we thrive at heights never before seen. With great power and wealth comes the burden of acknowledging the challenges and shackles placed on others, and our moral imperative to do what we can to help them.

The problem today is two-fold; for starters, we have failed to placed limitations on what we believe we can do and additionally we have failed to acknowledge the cold hard reality that America is not thriving at heights any longer never before seen; just the opposite. While suffering in America is still a far greater existence than thriving in most parts of the world, it is the abstract American suffering that we must acknowledge immediately. We are a bankrupt nation with no plan or way out of our hole. Left un-attended, the American dollar will be worthless within a decade and we will quite literally crumble as a nation. Therefore, it is time for us to say out loud that we have a serious problem and that the very first thing we are going to do is fix America so that we can once again in the future, make the world great.

The dirty little secret that America-haters refuse to acknowledge but know is true is that America can survive without the rest of the world. It would suck, but we would do it. The rest of the world cannot survive without America. Thus, a sick America creates a contagion that spreads across the globe and ruins the world slowly; a healthy America prevents nations teetering on the brink of ruin from collapsing. We are not a healthy America and our ability to stop collapse must be confronted. It is time for us to say to the rest of the world that we’re taking a break; no more American help and aid. We need it at home too much. Sorry Greece, Africa and Japan. We must fix our own problems before we begin to attempt to help you solve yours.

Use whatever cliché you like; you can’t make someone else happy unless you, yourself are happy, right? Well than how can you help someone else unless you, yourself, are capable of helping? The answer is clear.

A miserably sad story was written last week in the New York Times correctly identifying one of the few great accomplishments of President George W. Bush; he dramatically increased our financial and humanitarian aid to Africa to such levels that we have, single handedly, drastically slowed and stopped deaths there as a result of AIDS. It is a monumental humanitarian achievement that we will never receive full and proper credit for, and that’s not why we did it; we did it because it was right; just as it is now right for us to stop doing it.   As tragic and devastating as it will be, it is time for our money and our power and our abilities to come home. It is time for us to understand that we can’t help everyone, and sometimes we can’t help anyone.

In the story, this heart wrenching passage appears:

Her disease is quite advanced: her kidneys are failing and she is so weak she can barely walk. Leaving her young daughter with family, she rode a bus four hours to the hospital where her cousin, born infected, gets the drugs that keep her alive. 
But there are no drugs for Ms. Kamukama. As is happening in other clinics in Kampala, all new patients go on a waiting list. A slot opens when a patient dies. 
“So many people are being supported by America,” Ms. Kamukama, 28, says mournfully. “Can they not help me as well?”

This is the tragic limitation of the greatest country on earth; we simply can’t help everyone. Despite all we’ve done, this woman dies slowly on a waiting list. We can’t do more…we can’t even do what we’re doing.

It’s time for us to be finally what the rest of the world thinks we are; greedy, selfish and evil. While the world hates us, they need us more than they even know, so it’s time to show them. For a while, we must help ourselves to heal ourselves and then we will help others, who may be a little more appreciative when we do. Probably not, but we will still help them because it will be the right thing to do. I’m not advocating isolationism, I am advocating common sense; what American families do every week with their checking account; stopping lavish and discretionary spending. How do we possibly justify cutting one dime destined to help an American before stopping all help to foreigners?

In 2005, President Bush doubled, over the next five years, America’s financial aid to Africa.
In 2010, we gave more than $8 billion to the continent, most of which, of course, was used by corrupt leaders and despots to further their armies and lavish lifestyles, a truth openly acknowledged by American government officials as they sign each check.

How far would $8 billion go towards rebuilding Nashville? Estimates say that total damage from the floods there a few weeks ago will reach over $1 billion. We could rebuild all of the south and have money left over to completely pay for the oil spill off of the gulf coast, currently coming in at less than a billion dollars.

How do we look an American in Tennessee in the eye and explain this?

To those who argue that you can’t put a price on a human life, I remind them that people are going to die, and it is sadly time that we let them. Someone needs to courageously announce that America needs to clean up and protect itself at home first so that we can go back to doing the work of the globe later. In other words, yes, we are going to put a price on human life; Americans first, everyone else second.