March 31, 2020

We’re A Nation That Learns Our Lessons (NOT)

Responding To A Post I Just Read

Update - April, 9th 2020.

My post was reponded to by the original author here.

“I’m honored to know my words elicited such a strong emotion in John, but it seems as if he misunderstood a few of my larger points; therefore, I’ve chosen to respond to him. My hope is that the following letter will fill in a few of the gaps.”

JoAnna Brient opens her post

“JoAnna Bennett thank you for writing such a lengthy and considered post. I wish you well with your battles. You highlight what is indeed the case. There are at least two Americas (I think I can count 4). I am resisting going off on yet another tangent. So let me just say that ’Power of the few is only possible through the inaction of the many.”

John Replies on LinkedIN

Bottom line, she felt that I was missing the bigger picture. Not sure I did. Not sure that JoAnna’s post provides more clarity - other than an amplificaiton of her own personal story - which sounds horific. But that’s not the point either.

Anyway link here - decide for yourself.

My Original Article

“None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”

Johann von Goethe.

”I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Even most non Americans would see those words and know instantly that it is ‘The Pledge of Allegiance’. With zero research I would estimate that very few know the name of the person that wrote the original words …

”I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Francis Bellamy

Fun Fact … Bellamy was a Christian Socialist. I wonder how many people that recite the pledge know that?

It has been modified over the years for different reasons not least of which was the addition of ‘under god’ … designed to distinguish the USA from the Russian and Chinese atheistic communism during the Cold War.

I recognize that this sentence writes off years of development and back and forth and there were other reasons, but the core truth holds. (The other reasons are even more insidious)

Hold that thought.

I was driven to write this piece in response to an article I have just read and I will post a link to this response in the comments on both of those.

My Response

Overall it reads like a solid feel good story, even the title ‘Live Free or Die’ makes your neck hairs shiver. We need to burst out the national anthem.

Except …

Except …

Consider this single paragraph lifted from the piece.

“America is known as the land of the free. We’ve only been at this freedom experiment for six generations, but we’ve done it gracefully. As we grow, we include more and more citizens under the freedom umbrella. Our latest addition was the LGTB community, but previous inclusions have been females and citizens of color. As time goes on, we learn to make freedom more accessible to all.”

If you buy into that, you really need to look around America more. Whether you are talking about LGBTQ, Women or People of Color - we have in words laws that afford ‘protections’ and ‘equality’ for those communities. We do not have that in practice - in any way. But this is not the time to get into that.

But here’s where I want to get a little picky.

“We’re a nation that learns its lessons.”

Do ‘we’? Do we Really?1

  • What did WWII teach the USA?

  • What did Vietnam teach the USA?

  • What did Iraq teach the USA?

  • Do you believe that African Americans are equal in every way to white people?

  • Do you believe that Women are equal in every way to men?

  • Do you believe that LGBTQ2 people are equal in every way to straight people?

And so to my real question

What is the USA learning from Covid 19.

I am fully aware that all the data is up in the air, not bring fully reported - it’s a finger in the air and it is relative and yes, Russian and Chinese numbers … who knows? For your exercise, just compare to those countries you think you can trust.

Facts At This Moment Of Writing

The UNITED States of America

  • has the most COVID-19 cases of any country in the world.
  • has the 6th highest death count in the world (though only the 17th highest death rate when measured against population3.

But these figures belie the numbers by state.

  • New York State is only behind Italy and Spain for ’deaths per million of population.
  • Louisiana is around the same level as Iran (although Louisiana doesn’t have to contend with sanctions as Iran does.)

I won’t bother going on … you can get your own data from any of these sites;

Here’s my point. State by State we are learning. Learning lessons all over again! Lessons that are staring us in the face from all over the world, that we do not pay attention to.

Meanwhile the leader that got us into this mess. The leader who wants everyone back at work by Easter. The leader who ignores the advice of a doctor that has advised every US President since Reagan. The leader who instead is now taking advice from a real estate developer.

When asked how he is performing. How good a job is he doing. The American president’s approval rating is at an all time high. (The fact that this is still only 49% is telling - but that means that 49% of the US electorate have learned nothing from the past three and a half years.

No. Sorry.

We are not a nation that learns its lessons.


Before publishing this article, I asked a few Americans to take a read and check that I wasn’t being too down on America, too rude, too uninformed. They assured me I wasn’t.

The single biggest piece of feedback;

”I think you need to include some clear examples of some nations that HAVE learned their lessons in the past. I can’t think of any off-hand. And if it turns out if it’s correct that America doesn’t learn it’s lessons and others do, what are we supposed to do about that?

There are all kinds of angles and directions I could go with this - but let’s keep it to the ‘here and now’.

With all the best advice of China, Italy and Spain - who have been ravaged by COVID-19 - no attention is paid.

Advice from the US President is all over the place - when it is clear that countries that are taking the advice and implementing the lock downs are ‘flattening the curve’.

The Guardian writes;

”Disunited states of America: responses to coronavirus shaped by hyper-partisan politics.”

”The divergence in state responses to coronavirus does not cleanly split along the red-blue line, with Republican governors in states such as Ohio and Maryland among the most proactive in responding to the threat. It’s more like the rational states versus the Trump Republican states.”

Manuel Pastor, Professor at University of Southern California.

”States with Democratic governors have been quicker to declare emergencies, close schools, shutter non-essential businesses and impose limits on bars and restaurants, according to data collected by the Kaiser Foundation. Fifteen of 21 states to have issued stay-at-home orders have Democratic governors.”

”States with Republican governors, meanwhile, have been less eager to ask businesses to close, and more likely to downplay the threat. “Go to the grocery stores. For crying out loud, go to the grocery stores,” Governor Jim Justice of West Virginia told residents on 16 March. “If you want to go to Bob Evans and eat, go to Bob Evans and eat.”

Does any of that sound like we are taking advice? Listening to experts?

NO. We are not learning lessons. Even immediate ones.From ourselves!

The problem is two fold …

1] Republicans automatically advise and do anything that is opposite to Democrats. That’s it. Everything else be damned.

2] A much older problem is that America has for so long believed in American exceptionalism and that they are sooooo good - that nobody can teach them anything. America is told over and over again - that they are the best and anything that says otherwise is a virus that must be rejected and spat out. (Except for this one apparently).

As I type - I am reminded of this video. Fiction that is too close to the truth.


Answering “what are we supposed to do?”

Very clear - take the advice of experts. Follow the processes of those countries that are ahead in their fight and managing the virus. (Nobody is winning yet, Nobody.)

In short. Listen to experts and act. ( I am not holding my breath).

The other piece of feedback;

” ‘Apologize not for telling the truth, only for not telling it sooner’ feels like an appropriate remark.”

I apologize not for telling the truth, only for not telling it sooner.

  1. I put ‘we’ in inverted commas because I am English yet have more experience of living in the USA than anyone under 30. As a consequence many people might assume I have adopted the usual American thinking. I have not. I remain a tax paying fully paid up green card member of American society.↩︎

  2. Yes, there is a ‘Q’ … it isn’t just LGBT.↩︎

  3. The number of deaths doubled in the past two days↩︎

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