A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
Tomorrow is the 4th of July, American Independence Day. (Not really– Congress actually voted on the 2nd of July, but the boys didn’t sign it until the 4th – so everybody just goes with that.) Anyway, every year at this time I take a minute to cut through the rhetoric and speak in praise of America. (Some years are harder than others.) I do it because, as John Adams once said, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” Here are some facts about the Land of Milk and Money.
There are 1.5 million registered volunteer agencies in America (and that doesn’t include all the local groups, who run bake sales, sell raffle tickets, drive kids to practice, sew costumes for little theatre, plant community gardens, visit seniors, etc., etc., etc.) In all, over 60 million Americans do some kind of volunteer work every year. That’s nearly 20% of the population – far more than that of any other country in the world.
American universities spend mega-money on research. Last year, the top 10 schools alone spent over 11 billion dollars studying everything from laser surgery to micro agriculture. And here’s the deal. Nearly 90% of all that research is available to the world – for free. All you have to do is ask!
In 2015, the top ten charities in America raised and distributed over $26 billion dollars. That’s more than the next three most generous nations (New Zealand, Canada and the UK) combined.
In 2016, the United States paid 10 billion of the roughly 50 billion dollar United Nations budget. That kind of money goes a long way to keeping UN Women, the World Health Organization, Unesco and Unicef going. By contrast, China the world largest nation, paid $1.3 billion and Vladimir Putin’s Russia paid a measly $562 million.
Those “Blood for Oil” bumper stickers are bullshit. Roughly 40% of the fossil fuels used in the US are home-grown. In fact, America is one of the top oil producers in the world (normally, just behind #1, Saudi Arabia and #2 Russia.) The truth is, America gets more oil from Canada than it does from the entire Persian Gulf.
Despite what the Internet will tell you, America spends more on Health Care and Social Security (over half their budget) than it does on the military (16%.) On average, university professors earn more than Army generals. And there are 3 times as many teachers in America as there are police officers.
But my favourite is still:
Every year, the US government gives – GIVES – over $30 billion in non-military foreign aid to countries around the world. That’s free money, folks — courtesy of the American taxpayer. It’s from the woman who drives the truck. The guy with 3 kids in school. The architect, the nurse, the butcher, the baker and even the candlestick maker. It’s from all those Americans who never get mentioned in the news.
Over the last 242 years, US presidents, policies and perceptions have changed many times, but ordinary Americans have always maintained a remarkable ability to cope, an incredible desire to help — at home and around the world — and an extraordinary willingness to share their good fortune.
Happy 4th of July, America