Friday, April 6, 2012


I’m currently reading Arianna Huffington’s “Third World America”, her treatise on the escalating economic woes of the wealthiest nation in history. Aside from her constant need to create quotable soundbites and her tendency to write like the blogger she is, it’s a good read, and an alarming one (not just for Americans). Two things have jumped out at me so far:

1. America is a country, but is also an idea, and a fine one at that. Over more than three centuries, the idea of a democratic utopia for mankind has inspired the rest of us plebians toward greater ideals, although in the last century at least the idea has started to yield less and less.
That’s why I raised an eyebrow at the end of the list of superlatives Mz Huffington uses to describe her adoptive country: aside from the obvious ones, she uses the word ‘noble’.
The traditional understanding of ‘noble’ as ‘being of high moral principles’ may have been applicable in another age, but not anymore. In fact, if anything, I would say that ‘noble’ is the least appropriate word one could use to describe modern America. Powerful, yes. Great, indisputibly. But noble?
Western values are corrupt and morally bankrupt, and no nation can claim the blame quite like America. That’s not to say Americans are guilty as a nation, any more so than ‘Germans’ are collectively guilty for World War 2. America post-WW2, however, has presided over the collapse of any notion of Western moral superiority (for better or for worse), and of all things, ‘nobility’ went first.

2. A March 2010 Harris Poll is quoted in which Republicans are polled regarding their feelings  on Barack Obama. Apparently, 57% of those polled  believe he is a Muslim, 38% believe he’s doing ‘many of the things that Hitler did’, and 24% believe ‘he may be the Anti-Christ’ (chapter 2 page 86). 
Paranoid and frightened they may be, and justly so in the face of the steady decline of America, but aren’t these the same people who voted for George W. Bush? Twice? The man who, more than any other elected President (including Nixon and Reagan), presided over the key events that have resulted in America’s current condition? Bush 43 was the harbinger, and yet Obama is ‘the Anti-Christ’? 
The American Society of Engineers’ 2009 report on America’s infrastructure was described later as ‘the kind of report card you would have expected on the eve of the collapse of the Roman Empire’ (p94).
America’s degeneration began long before Obama. It’s not Bush’s fault either of course, but here’s the thing: of the $2.2 trillion needed over the next five years to just make America’s infrastructure barely passable, only $975 billion has been budgeted. Where are the spending priorities? Overseas wars (begun under Bush), and the unfair bailing out of multi-national corporations. Obama’s not perfect, but there’s one word I would ascribe to him: noble.

Post-script: “America is like a middle-aged man, still clinging to a perception of himself at age twenty-three, refusing to take in the wrinkles and the bald spot showing up in the mirror. And the bad knee. And the clogged arteries that could make his heart stop beating at any moment. We still see ourselves as a youthful nation, when it simply isn’t true anymore.” – Arianna Huffington, “Third World America” 2011


  1. Really John, It's sad that you would base your understanding of america on a book by Arianna Huffington. I have no doubt that you have little patience for the fact that non Africans understand the political turmoil happening on your continent. I would argue that we Americans have little patience for people from Africa claiming to have some deep insight into America. Did all of your years touring with your band really allow you to see the real America, meet the people that make us great? Your understanding comes mainly from books that you have chosen to read rather than truly spending the time to evaluate what is happening. Your quote from Arianna Huffington speaks volumes about your misunderstanding of our nation. I came to your site because I have always been a fan of your music. You are an incredibly talented man. The fact that you place a higher interest in politics than you do in jesus (your words) makes me sad. The politics of this world will pass, human leaders will *always* disappoint, but the things of spirit are all that will endure. I hope that your interst in politics will lead you to read a broader range of books where you can make a more discerning opinion of another country's politics and history. It is intellectual laziness to allow yourself to be spoon fed the popular beliefs of a current culture. As a student of history I find that basing my opinions and beliefs on internet bloggers like Arianna Huffington will never reveal the actual truth, only half baked sound bites and politcal party speaking points. If I were to do this concerning your fine country I could be led to believe it is either a paradise, or the most screwed up nation on earth. i will do my best to fairly judge your nation and her peoples. I would ask the same courtesy from you.

  2. C'mon John...this the most irresponsible post you've made on your blog. You fail to take a lot of things into consideration, such as the fact that Americans are the most generous people on the planet. Google it if you doubt it. While I am in agreement with you in that I certainly wouldn't describe Bush W. as "noble," I find it terribly sad that you would consider President Obama to be "noble," if nothing else, when he has endorsed something that is as clearly forbidden in the Bible as homosexuality. But I suppose that isn't so relevant to someone who is more interested in humanitarianism than they are in doxology. Humanitarianism is great, but it is finite--we all die. But God's glory is unending.

    With all due respect, your perception of America and "nobility" are horribly off, my friend.

  3. Anonymous:touched a nerve there I see.
    1.'Irresponsible'? To whom are bloggers responsible?
    2. America and Americans do not, have never, and will never have dibs on The Moral High-Ground.
    3. A Christian accusing someone else of intellectual laziness? Really? Did that just happen?
    4. Please, Anonymous, if you're the student of history you purport to be, re-read my post critically and carefully. Read like an academic, if you are one. Show me where I come out in favor of Ms Huff.
    5.And please come and see my library at home before you challenge me, of all people, to read widely.
    6.I come from Africa, Anonymous. We've seen it all out here. Knee-jerky "aw c'mon John's" don't cut it in the real world, friend.
    7. Be brave! Be bold! Put your actual name on your comments! Own it!
    8. American Christians. You can't beat 'em.