A recurring media topic these days is the cultural, economic and political decline of the American Empire. It’s reflected in a large number of books, blogs and mainstream news stories. My former professor, Morris Berman, writes a popular blog, Dark Ages America, almost singularly devoted to the theme.
Perhaps you’re skeptical? Well, if you remain doubtful, I’ve come across a number of recent examples of this decline, including two from that increasingly important barometer (and archive) of American culture, YouTube. Let’s proceed with the evidence…
Exhibit #1: In the land of torts, Gloria Allred has risen above the pack and become a well-known trial lawyer and media manipulator. She’s also lost her mind. Witness the following press conference captured on YouTube, and consider the utterly inappropriate content given the two young girls who are flanking her.
Exhibit #2: American presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee [Note: On May 16, Huckabee withdrew from the presidential race.] thinks American teachers are too biased, so he’s created his own company called learnourhistory.com. Here is the website’s introduction:
Welcome to Learn Our History, where kids discover history through entertaining animated videos! I co-founded this company to give children a fun, fresh way to learn about America’s rich past and most influential people.
Many of our schools and teachers today haven’t found ways to make history for kids fun. Instead, they’re teaching with political bias that distorts facts for the sake of political correctness. As a result, our national pride and patriotism are in jeopardy.
That’s what makes Learn Our History different. Your kids will love to learn American history as they watch our nation’s stories come to life right before their eyes! All the while, they’ll build a strong sense of national pride and appreciation for America.
Now, watch one his company’s “inspiring” video promos on Ronald Reagan:
Not surprisingly, comments have been turned off for the YouTube site. As an educator, my only question is this: Do I use Huckabee’s site first to teach irony, or do I move immediately to the topic of propaganda?
Exhibit #3: On a more serious note, Andy Kroll, a well-known writer for Mother Jones magazine, has written a chilling article on the hollowing out of the American middle class. He documents the jobless and unequal recovery now being touted by the Democrats – minus the jobless and unequal part, of course – and the critical role that labour unions used to play as the foundation of the modern middle class. Here are two excerpts:
… On April 19th , McDonald’s launched its first-ever national hiring day, signing up 62,000 new workers at stores throughout the country. For some context, that’s more jobs created by one company in a single day than the net job creation of the entire U.S. economy in 2009. And if that boggles the mind, consider how many workers applied to local McDonald’s franchises that day and left empty-handed: 938,000 of them. With a 6.2 percent acceptance rate in its spring hiring blitz, McDonald’s was more selective than the Princeton, Stanford, or Yale University admission offices….
…Bargaining-table clout is crucial for unions, since it directly affects the wages their members take home every month. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, union workers pocket on average $200 more per week than their non-union counterparts, a 28 percent difference. The benefits of union representation are even greater for women and people of color: women in unions make 34 percent more than their non-unionized counterparts, and Latino workers nearly 51 percent more.
In other words, at precisely the moment when middle-class workers need strong bargaining rights so they can fight to preserve a living wage in a barbell economy, unions around the country face the grim prospect of losing those rights….
Do I take any comfort in this decline of a superpower? Do I display Schadenfreude, the pleasure of witnessing the discomfort of others?
But of course, it’s self-defeating and just plain ‘ol bad karma. As a Canadian, I know that America’s decline almost certainly means our decline. But it’s like a car wreck. Terrible. Awful. Irresistible.
Edited on: Tuesday, May 17, 2011 5:44 PM