flagprison

I took some flak for questioning America’s Day of Independence celebrations. I suggested that flag-waving is sometimes an empty exercise and distracts society from scrutiny of serious problems.

To support the point, I stated some positions:

America is the only Western nation in the world to execute human beings.
America has 1 in 30 adults locked up in prisons (4 times the amount of any other Western state).
America’s middle class has fled to the banality of the suburbs and hung its public school systems out to dry.
America has 50 million medically uninsured people, including 11 million children.

America has embraced the privatisation of prisons and stockholders profit from the incarceration of men, women and children.
America’s drug war is in fact a war on the lower classes, who are predominantly minority groups.

As if on cue, these three things have fallen into my lap in the intervening 72 hours.

Schools

The Economist reports on the US’ private school sector; a sector totally unaffected by the recession. Amanda Uhry of Manhattan Private Schools Advisors speaks brutality and unabashedly about the robustness of the private school sector. It’s success is based on fear, individualism, constant educational benchmarks set from the earliest of grade levels, and a severe lack of imagination; “America has fallen far, far behind other nations in providing public education”.

Prisons

I hope most Americans would prefer not to be number one in this country-by-country comparison.

PrisonStatsCountry

And, just in case you’re wondering, the US is 4th most frequent executioner of its citizens. The other countries making up the top five are the often vilified and demonised China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

Hospitals

My family in the UK is an average bunch. Nevertheless, three of the five of us have required major surgery (all three more than once). The NHS provided – in every case – timely and impeccable care. Taxes aren’t a burden, they are peace of mind.

As John Pilger puts it, “The way the National Health Service is represented in the United States is truly scandalous. That word ‘Socialist’ is pulled out; it’s kind of infantile almost. Well, if Socialist is taking away the fear of being denied health care, then yes it is.”