Happy Birthday, Mr Darwin

Lincoln freed bodies. This man freed minds.

Lincoln freed bodies. This man freed minds.

For those who don’t know, today marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln. Go, Abe! Question for anyone who might know: why does “Lincoln” have a silent “l” in it?

But Lincoln’s birthday is overshadowing the birthday of someone who is arguably more important and had a larger impact around the world, one Charles Darwin, born on the same day in 1809.

Lincoln was a great president and a great man who helped free the bodies of the slaves around the country and fought to preserve the union. Darwin, on the other hand, helped free the minds of generations from the shackles of ignorance and religion and gave us a different, scientific point of view as to, well, The Origin Of Species.

For those who are interested, Roger Ebert, of all people, has written a piece praising Darwin. It’s intelligent and interesting, like everything he writes, and I highly recommend it.

To all those who continue to cling to “intelligent” design or belief in a god, hey, it’s 2009. Wake up and get with the 21st century, ok? To those who say Darwin recanted and had a nice heart-to-heart with Elizabeth Hope, no, he didn’t. Accept it. Move on. Even if by some chance he had recanted, it doesn’t matter. If Columbus had suddenly started saying, “Hey, the world is flat!”, that wouldn’t have made it so. Darwin’s theories have stood the test of time and science and that’s good enough for me.

American Arrogance

A sample of a couple lines of dialogue from conversations I’ve had with friends of mine recently.

“You know,” I said. “In Europe, and virtually every other civilized part of the world, they have government run health care. It’s cheaper, more efficient and leads to healthier people living longer lives.”

“So what?” he asked dismissively. “This is America. Who cares how they do it in the rest of the world?”

“It’s the same with schools,” I continued. “In other countries, they’re run by the federal government. It’s cheaper, more efficient and results in kids that routinely test better than American kids.”

“Who cares? This is America. We don’t need to do things the way other countries do.”

Ah, American arrogance. One area in which we really excel. We aren’t the best, the smartest, the healthiest, the richest or anything else, but we certainly appear to be the most arrogant.

This manifests itself in several ways. Sometimes it’s just our “rah, rah, go, America!” attitude that we show despite what our country might be doing. Sometimes it’s, “God bless America!”. Sometimes it’s “This is the greatest country on Earth!” Hell, we won’t even dip the flag before a foreign nation’s leader during things like the Olympics when other countries do, cause we’re, you know, special.

So it doesn’t matter that while America is the best country for us, Denmark might be better for a Dane. It doesn’t matter to us that we say, “God bless America!”, without saying, “God bless everyone!”. It doesn’t matter that our country makes mistakes or does things that border on war crimes, no! Cause we’re America, the best and the brightest.

And it really doesn’t matter to us what the little socialist states of Europe are doing. Sure, they have lower crime rates, their people are healthier, richer, better educated, live longer and have a higher standard of living, but so what? That’s no reason for us to start doing what they’re doing. No, we just need to carry on doing what doesn’t work!

This puzzles me. Look, I love my country. I wouldn’t want to be a citizen anywhere else. But we’re really fucking up on a lot of levels. Our educational system is in the toilet, we don’t have a strong safety net, our health care is a mess and we spend more on our military than the next twenty nations combined!

We need to look at other countries and see what they’re doing right. Why is Norway better off than we are? What’s Japan doing that we should copy? What can we learn from the rest of the world? Possibly we can even learn things from Canada. We need to start doing this cause if we don’t, the next thing you know, we’ll be totally irrelevant, and I want better than that for our country.


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