It’s no secret that Americans are pretty displeased with their leadership these days. Congress’ approval rating is an abysmal 5%, faith in our elected leaders seems to be at an all-time low, and rancorous, partisan gridlock has resulted in an embarrassing government shutdown.
Meanwhile the world is having a field day at our expense, incredulous that the world’s greatest superpower has been brought to a halt by a gaggle of ineffectual, squabbling leaders. In addition to all the anger and disillusionment here at home, there’s been an onslaught of international smugness, and even glee, watching the Colossus of Liberty tripping over its own democratic feet.
Without a doubt, our political system is imperfect. There is plenty of buffoonery, pomposity, corruption and shocking ineptitude that is worthy of fiery scorn. But I would caution the nations of the earth to be mindful of throwing stones.
Things don’t seem so bad when you consider some alternatives around the globe. Here are just a dozen examples:
Belgium – Think Belgique is magnifique? Think the Flemish are without blemish? Not so fast, mon frère. While the Belgians’ contributions to the world are duly noted, and they have a lovely country, it’s not been all outstanding monk-brewed beer, silky chocolate and dynamite waffles lately. Without delving into the fact the Belgium was one of the most miserable colonial powers of all time, and that their most revered national landmark is a statue of a boy relieving himself, from 2007-2011, they endured political strife that was apparently serious enough to merit its own Wikipedia page.
Bhutan – This place is often portrayed as an idyllic, halcyon paradise. But beneath the veneer of the admittedly awesome concept of Gross National Happiness, ordinary Bhutanese are pretty restricted. You can’t smoke cigarettes; they have a pretty strange (and compulsory) dress code, and the country has a less-than-stellar record of religious of freedom. (No word on whether e-cigs are allowed.)
The Democratic Republic of Congo – It’s no secret that the DRC is one of world’s most chaotic, least developed, poorly run countries. After gaining independence from the aforementioned awful Belgian colonialists, the people were then subjected to several decades-worth of rule from a fellow whose original name was Joseph Desire Mobutu. After really finding his feet as a proper delusional strongman, he changed his name to Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Waza Banga; which means “the all-powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, will go from conquest to conquest leaving fire in his wake.” Can you imagine Joe Biden trying to pull a move like that?
Denmark – Those smug Scandinavians may be beautiful, athletic and near the top of every basic quality-of-life indices, but did you know they only allow children to be christened with an officially sanctioned name Sorry, Kayne, we’re guessing “Nordvest” isn’t on the list. Seems pretty repressive to me, Jørgen.
Greece – They may have birthed democracy, geometry, tzatziki sauce and Yanni, but Greece has fallen on ugly times. Unprecedented uncertainty, volatility and a bank-account balance to make Detroit feel good about itself have led to the rise of the hateful Golden Dawn group onto the political scene.
North Korea – Say what you will about the U.S. of A., but the last time I checked, we were all still free to wear our hair however we please.
Romania – Unlike the smooth vibes of their treasured pan flute legend Zamfir, Romania’s leaders are quite harsh. From anti-Roma (Gypsy) policies to a recent idea to round up and kill Bucharest’s stray dogs, most Americans would find this political climate a bit uncomfortable to say the least.
Russia – To say Russia is “heavy-handed” would be an affront to hands everywhere. Under the heft of Vlad Putin’s barrel-chested, steed-riding machismo, there is no shortage of repression, xenophobia and fear to go around.
Swaziland – We Americans don’t care much for kings, but the good people of Swaziland are still having to deal with a misbehaving monarch. Here is King Mswati III’s Troy McClure intro: “Hi, I’m King Mswati III. You may remember me from such events as taking my 15th wife, appointing all my family members and close relations to parliament, or perhaps acquiring a private jet. All this while the life expectancy of my subjects is about 50!”
Turkmenistan – Whether you politically lean right, left or otherwise, I think we can all appreciate the fact that we are not under the thumb of an outlandish dictator. Turkmenistan was ruled until 2006 by a man who outlawed dogs due to their odor, decreed that men should not wear beards and advised his people to chew on bones to make their teeth stronger.
The Ukraine – Have you ever seen one of these crazy Ukrainian Parliament brawls? While it would definitely be awesome to see Boehner and Reid or Pelosi and Mitch McConnell engage in fisticuffs, there’s something inherently worrisome about countries with leaders who routinely punch each other in the face.
Zimbabwe – Last year, Bulawayo government officials decided to address their city’s deteriorating sanitation situation by asking all residents to perform an orchestrated city-wide “synchronized flush.” Zimbabweans continue to suffer under the disastrous rule of Robert Mugabe, who has been the man in charge there since The Cure released Boys Don’t Cry (1980).
We could go on for days. Obviously there are many bad governments out there; some of which ruthlessly attack and persecute their own people or make life miserable for minorities. Many more are either inept or shamelessly corrupt.
The point is, things could always be worse, America. A lot worse. The mighty eagle of American democracy may be wounded, and perhaps a bit embarrassed right now, but she is resilient and will once again take flight and lead us to better times. And if not, we can all just move to Canada.