Comparisons between the US and some European countries always bring howls of protest from those who are blindly committed to American Exceptionalism, the crippling belief that we're special, if not superior to everyone else.
Sadly, such nonsense makes it impossible for Americans to learn from others ... I mean, after all, what's to learn, when we already know it all, have it all, and can do it all - the American Way?
I'm reluctant to writer any further, but I'll push on ... having recently spent a few weeks traveling in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, by car and train, I can only conclude that their roads are magnificent, and their trains, plentiful and comfortable, run on time.
All of this with various forms of universal health care and support for education.
The people are happy, can't understand America's current health-care mess, enjoy eating out, love the sunshine, have generous family-leave time, and dress well.
Heaven on earth?
Of course not, but a simple reminder that America isn't the last word on everything, and slipping further behind, we're likely to have the last word on nothing, as the rest of the world, even the Third World, outstrips us in environmental care, affordable housing, public transit, health-care and education.
Some needed changes:
First off, American Exceptionalism is a lie ... the world if full of great nations, large and small. We badly need to get over ourselves.
Secondly, lots of nations are doing a far better job of caring for their citizens than we are. Imagine that.
And that means we have to learn from others. I know that galls some, but like it or not, if we can't learn, we will fail, and fail badly.
The current message of conservative politicians doesn't help right now, but sadly, theirs is a message that still has plenty of street appeal for a segment of the American People who find it necessary to think that might makes right, or something like that.
Progressive voices offer us our best hope, but their message doesn't carry the weight of a John Wayne or Charlton Heston.
I hope that Americans can awaken from their slumbers and begin to see how the lies of our conservative leaders are destroying us; that John Wayne and Charlton Heston are no help whatsoever, except if you're rich and wanna stay rich by robbing everyone else of life, health and hope.
I see hopeful signs ... people are sick of failing schools and the failed promises of charter schools ... people are sick of lousy roads and our lack of public transit ... people want health-care, decent jobs, wages and benefits.
Maybe, just maybe, folks will see how other countries are doing it, and that we can and we must learn from others, because we're in a real mess right now.
Tides turns, and I think the tide is turning to a more populist message, the kind that guided Teddy Roosevelt and FDR, even Eisenhower at times, and certainly Carter, Clinton and Obama, too. But now's the time for even more ... if America hopes to find its rightful place in the world story.