09 November 2008

Nailed It!

As a lifelong Guardian (UK) reader, I have to say this article by George Monbiot nails it better than any other I've read on exactly how the US ended up where they were until Nov. 4th. I wish every American would read it.

(A caution to US readers of this blog: the Guardian article, like much of the press outside the US, pulls no punches and might strike Americans as virulently anti-US. I assure you they are not, it's just "tough love.")

Here's the opener:
How was it allowed to happen? How did politics in the US come to be dominated by people who make a virtue out of ignorance? Was it charity that has permitted mankind's closest living relative to spend two terms as president? How did Sarah Palin, Dan Quayle and other such gibbering numbskulls get to where they are? How could Republican rallies in 2008 be drowned out by screaming ignoramuses insisting that Barack Obama was a Muslim and a terrorist?

But Monbiot is just getting warmed up:

On one level, this is easy to answer. Ignorant politicians are elected by ignorant people. US education, like the US health system, is notorious for its failures. In the most powerful nation on earth, one adult in five believes the sun revolves round the earth; only 26% accept that evolution takes place by means of natural selection; two-thirds of young adults are unable to find Iraq on a map; two-thirds of US voters cannot name the three branches of government; the maths skills of 15-year-olds in the US are ranked 24th out of the 29 countries of the OECD. But this merely extends the mystery: how did so many US citizens become so stupid, and so suspicious of intelligence?

Hang on, it gets even better:

One theme is both familiar and clear: religion - in particular fundamentalist religion - makes you stupid. The US is the only rich country in which Christian fundamentalism is vast and growing.

And I can't resist one more:

Besides fundamentalist religion, perhaps the most potent reason intellectuals struggle in elections is that intellectualism has been equated with subversion. The brief flirtation of some thinkers with communism a long time ago has been used to create an impression in the public mind that all intellectuals are communists. Almost every day men such as Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly rage against the "liberal elites" destroying America.

If you're squirming in your seat right now, it's just proof that the truth hurts. Go read the whole thing.

EDIT: Here's some supplementary reading from the NYT.

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