Should America Lead the World?
Posted on May 24, 2011
By Jim Jordal
Presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty recently said in a New Hampshire speech that America "should lead the world---in everything!" It’s a provocative statement that needs elaboration because we already lead the world in many categories, some of them good, but many more bad. It’s nice for our nation to take the moral high ground in advocating increased human freedom and democratic principles for all, as we so often do. But it’s not so nice when our world leadership depends upon massive environmental destruction, human oppression and an arrogant appropriation of the world’s resources in ways beneficial only to ourselves.
World leadership carries with it great moral responsibility. Our nation’s actions must match its words if we are to have any credibility with those of the world’s people who hear our lofty claims but also experience our often arrogant and unprincipled behavior. We cannot continue doing what we please whenever and wherever we wish while protesting our good intentions and altruistic motives.
How can we proclaim the rights of Egyptian and Libyan people to democracy while we ignore similar cries from Syrian and Bahranian sufferers because their dictators are supposedly our "friends"? And how can we proclaim human freedoms and egalitarian ideals abroad when we lead all developed nations in the percentage of our population imprisoned as a result of laws grossly discriminating against disadvantaged groups?
There’s a vast difference between what America says and what it does. We speak of world peace while we continue to spend more for national defense and militarism than the rest of the world put together. We talk of ending poverty while we continue public policies that create more poverty and suffering. We pontificate against global warming while refusing to implement Green policies because they might adversely affect corporate profits. And we proudly proclaim the world’s highest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) while refusing to face the impact of our prosperity upon developing nations and lower income groups.
These are all moral issues demanding resolute leadership and a public willing to surrender some current privileges in order to gain much greater future benefits. We cannot, and should not, lead the world in everything. We should not lead in any form of political repression or financial oppression. We should lead in subordinating corporations to people and ecological preservation, profits to decent wages, consumption to happiness, militarism to peaceful pursuits and economic injustice to widespread financial equity.
You can act to bring this about by agitating wherever you can for justice of all types. You can live these values yourself by refusing to participate in any form of injustice. You never know, others might follow you into making this world a better place.