Exploding the Myth of American Exceptionalism
While it’s not a surprise to many of us, the latest international health study confirms what many of us have been saying for a long time–the only thing exceptional about American today is the glaring demise of the myth of so-called “American Exceptionalism.” About the only things the US is exceptional for today are its absurd levels of violence, imprisonment, corruption and inequality. And among these, the issues of health and violence stand heads and shoulders above the rest of the world in their absurdity, as confirmed in the latest National Academy Press publication U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health.
In essence, the new report says that America’s body politic is in abysmal shape–figuratively and literally. As the report states in the summary:
The United States is among the wealthiest nations in the world, but it is far from the healthiest. Although life expectancy and survival rates in the United States have improved dramatically over the past century, Americans live shorter lives and experience more injuries and illnesses than people in other high-income countries. A growing body of research is calling attention to this problem, with a 2011 report by the National Research Council confirming a large and rising international “mortality gap” among adults age 50 and older. The U.S. health disadvantage cannot be attributed solely to the adverse health status of racial or ethnic minorities or poor people, since recent studies suggest that even highly advantaged Americans may be in worse health than their counterparts in other countries.
But the real kicker comes when the report states that “we uncovered a strikingly consistent and pervasive
pattern of higher mortality and inferior health in the United States, beginning at birth.” Some of the possible causal explanations the report suggested included the following:
Americans are less likely to smoke and may drink less heavily than their counterparts in peer countries, but they consume the most calories per capita, abuse more prescription and illicit drugs, are less likely to fasten seatbelts, have more traffic accidents involving alcohol, and own more firearms than their peers in other countries. U.S. adolescents seem to become sexually active at an earlier age, have more sexual partners, and are less likely to practice safe sex than adolescents in other high-income countries.
One only need think about current events in the US over the past month or two to know that all of these trends are bursting out from the social seams of society-illicit affairs, school shootings, drug overdoses, drunk driving accidents, etc. A quick glance at the data from the World Health Organization (WHO) included in the report makes this painfully evident, and speaks to the deeper culture of violence I wrote about recently in relation to the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in CT.
Sadly I don’t see any evidence that these trends are going to be improving, especially given the political and economic climate in the US currently. But like all great historical empires, the elites and the masses were all equally happy to continue living a fantasy right up until the bitter end, no matter how much denial of the reality around them had to be undertaken. And the US today is no exception to that iron rule of history–all empires will crumble and fall, always, with no exceptions.
Until next time…eat your greens and take a walk daily, it might just save your life.