Monday, April 02, 2007

Measure of Greatness

We hear it all the time.

Our politico’s never flagging testimony of our greatness. The words come so easily to their lips and they have repeated it so many times that one wonders if they are sincere but more to the point just what are they talking about?

What measure of greatness are they using? Is it the measure of our strength or is it about the proud heritage they so often refer to? What proud heritage is that and why is it proud? Are they talking about the U.S. Calvary who used to slaughter Native American women and children while the men were somewhere else? Are they proud of the gold miners in California who used to shoot Indians for sport? Perhaps they are talking about Custer’s last stand when the U.S. got a taste of its own medicine. Or maybe they mean Cambodia where we bombed and bombed and bombed some more.

On the other hand maybe they are talking about the way we ignore the elderly or stuff them in institutions where they are forgotten and sometimes abused. Or maybe it is the way we handled the aftermath of Katrina or it could be all the children living in poverty all left behind, every single one of them. I know -- it must be about our wonderful health care system where more women die in child birth than most other industrialized nations and where the people who have fallen through the holes left by our health insurance companies whose lobbyists write the laws, though no one voted for them, die from lack of medical care. We should be proud of the fact that people without health insurance must show up at emergency rooms in order to get any kind of treatment at all.

A number of years ago I did some volunteer work at the local library shelving books, magazines, videos and other such mundane things. I spent hours in the basement checking the archived magazines to see what was there and what was missing. One day I set up about 30 new computers that the library had just purchased to expand their services to meet the public demand for more computers. But the part I liked the best was saying hello to the homeless people that showed up every day who would ensconce themselves in their favorite spot getting out of the heat of the day or the cold of the day depending on the season. I would say hi and ask them how they were doing and I could not help but notice how surprised they were that anyone would actually talk to them, notice them -- much less ask them how they were. You know, God Damn it, but these are human beings and but for a bit of luck they could be any number of us and what is our great and proud society doing for them? Not much. has a great post on the new role libraries play in today’s America. Not only do libraries hold a wealth of information but they fill the gaps left behind by our cruel and unforgiving society that rewards only the wealthy, privileged and the bad asses.

Go ahead and read it, it might just surprise you.