U.S. crisis is degraded politics, not culture

In his April 6 DI column, Paul Schmitt was concerned about the mixed messages that American culture sends to other countries via MTV. I think it’s about factors other than MTV’s somewhat salacious programming. After all, most Europeans have been able to tune their TVs for decades to broadcast shows that could lead to multimillion dollar fines here from our FCC.

What upsets non-Americans are bigger issues than “reality” TV exports. Schmitt should be far more concerned about things we’ve ignored that have tarnished the reputation of all Americans. It’s a reality show that others often pay more attention to sometimes without the choice to change the channel – than we do as a nation.

There’s torture and war crimes that go unpunished or are simply laughed off; stolen and crooked elections; rates of incarceration from racist “drug wars” that make Soviet gulags look like country clubs; executive pay that is 400 times what a regular worker earns; a health care system that does a far better job of creating personal bankruptcy than it does preventing disease and curing the ill; an educational system among the most unequally funded in the world; and labor laws that are a laugh, with union membership that struggles to stay above 12 percent.

Most worrisome is the unpunished war of aggression committed by recently departed management here. We helped condemn a number of European war criminals a couple of generations back for something similar, but now apparently feel that such rule of law is only for those “little people” like Leona Helmsley used to say. Neither Obama or Congress seems interested in most of this.

The real U.S. image crisis is our degraded politics more than our culture. Hand-wringing distractions keep Schmitt busy, but won’t restore our national reputation.

Mike Lehman

Graduate Student