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Greece, Rome, Britain….America?

November 14, 2011

Is the United States an ungovernable country?

So went the title and question of a recent article on French news website Le Monde. The title caught my eye, and I wondered if the author would gloat at America, the great giant turned seemingly-fallen hero. Would it be a sort of mockery of the once-powerful, a smug laugh at the country which is always looking over everybody else’s shoulders, the country who spent so much time worrying about the rest of the world that it forgot to take care of itself?

The article was not written as such, although Corine Lesnes (the reporter) did touch upon the topic of a fallen Rome when she quoted a Harvard professor as saying:

 Nous sommes devenus l’Angleterre, ou Rome ou la Grèce.”

Is this true? Have we become an empire stretched taut, overrun with homefront debt as we charged on in senseless wars abroad? Because we were so bent on spreading our own mantras across the world, and enforcing a heartless economy, that we failed to notice what was going on in our own country?

Mesopotamia topped anything before it. Greece and certainly Rome topped any civilization that came before them. Britain led the bevy of European countries who, via colonization and exploration, changed the course of history. And America. America was a country by the people, for the people. A country where a pauper could become king, a country where all were welcome. Is this country, as Rome did, imploding on itself?

I hope not. Not just for selfish reasons (hello, I live here!) such as the fact that facing an even more austere economy (like that of Italy and Greece) would be even more depressing than facing the current one. Not because I like living in the number 1 country in the world. Personally, I don’t really think any country can be named number 1, as there are always flaws, but let me tell you: after living in France and, very briefly, Egypt, I can tell you this: there is no place like America.

The good old Star Spangled Banner

That was the ironic side-affect of my living abroad experience in this past year: I rediscovered a newfound appreciaton for my country. Do I think that the majority of Americans are ignorant, clueless and indifferent? Yes. Do I abhor certain aspects of our culture (like reality tv and a technology over-drive)? Yes. Do I detest our evil immigration laws which separate a true husband and wife? Hell yes. But we have something here (even if it is a bunch of mirrors and illusions) that I cherish most of all: freedom.

However, according to the article, ideals such as freedom and the pursuit of happiness might not be enough to help America weather it’s other pitfalls. The article discusses the faults of our constitution, pointing out that our central government is weak and that we perhaps need a prime minister. It’s embarassing to admit, but this French writer actually schooled me on our government! She mentioned checks and balances (oh yea, I remember learning about that in middle school!) and other aspects of our government that I’d either long forgotten about or just never knew. It made me realize how weak my own knowledge of how our country is run really is!

Being faced with a struggling economy, government and Occupy Wall Street, this article kind of awakened me to the fact that I need to understand our government better. My focus is always on social and cultural issues, but I need to wake up and read up on the very country I live in! (OWS protestors, follow suite!) I’m not going to go all political on you guys,  but I figure it’s worth a look so I can form a more educated opinion on the things happening in my country. I think all Americans should brush up on their U.S. history, especially those who have negative things to say and especially since we are in a crisis, whether we like it or not.

I guess my political awakening couldn’t come at a better time: I’m off to Washington, D.C. tomorrow! It’s my first time visiting the capital, believe it or not, and I hope to get some enlightenment! What are some cool things to see?

Links

  1. Le Monde’s article, “Les Etats un pays ingouvernable?” by Corine Lesnes  http://www.lemonde.fr/ameriques/article/2011/11/13/les-etats-unis-un-pays-ingouvernable_1602093_3222.html#ens_id=1550858
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5 Comments leave one →
  1. November 14, 2011 10:36 PM

    Good article! There are a lot of reasons that the ideas that America enshrines “freedom” and “democracy” are smoke and mirrors but does that make them any less real? We may be the fallen hero, but being so allows us a unique chance at introspection. If we find that we have developed undemocratic institutions then we need to change them, remake our country into the image that reflects our growing attitudes toward social justice and equality. It has emboldened me that so many people have experienced a political ephiny and find that they have ideas and opinions of their own. You should look at hitting up occupyDC at mcpherson square while you are in DC, and get involved in the decisionmaking process in your own community!

  2. November 16, 2011 4:14 PM

    Very good and honest post! I think a lot of us are ignorant to several issues faced in our own countries. Personally, living in the UK, our Prime Minister declared in the manifesto that a Constitution should be made for our country, I disagree; I think that the UK is unique by not having a written Constitution and can create more flexibility for our laws passed and debated in Parliament. Saying your “central government is weak and that we perhaps need a prime minister” could also bring its disadvantages, could it lead to a struggle in gaining power and no actual potential or beneficial reforms in central government?

    • November 18, 2011 11:21 PM

      Thank you. So is the UK going to have a Constitution or not? And I am going to sound woefully ignorant right now–I think I did admit that politics aren’t my thing, right?–but what is the difference between prime minister vs. president? It has never been clear to me, but I think a prime minister has less authority than a president, correct?

  3. November 23, 2011 3:35 PM

    PM David Cameron has claimed that he is going to create a written Constitution; however, so did Tony Blair, and Gordon Brown… In my opinion, once the PMs actually get together MPs to discuss the matters that need confining to the Constitution it would be such a huge task and debate that nothing actually becomes unanimously decided and evidently fails to make one, as seen when Tony Blair attempted to do this!
    The only definite input to the Constitution would likely be the Human Rights Act 1998, and although it would be a good start, there would definitely be some discussion even on this, such as on Article 3 of the Convention of the Prohibition of torture “No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” There is a lot of controversy regarding this in the press lately of the way troops have treated Iraqi prisoners. The creation would take possibly years which is clearly off-putting, and we seem to manage without one by the use of statutory interpretation and precedent.
    With your question about the difference between PM and president, there are a few. It depends on the country, as your country’s main authority is the president, ours is technically the Crown although they have little say on Government matters and only stamp the approval of Acts of Parliament (bearing in mind they have not dismissed an Act since the 1700s). A president is elected, whereas a party is elected in our country and party leaders then become appointed by Parliament to act for the UK Government. If you are interested in UK politics you can visit http://www.parliament.uk 🙂

    • November 27, 2011 7:50 PM

      Thank you for the info and clarification 🙂

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