Like some of the readers of these notes, I grew up in the US during the 1940s and 1950s.

 
It was a time of assimilation for Jews and all the rest of the hoi polloi who had streamed from Europe. The US was ascendant as the result of World War II, European and Asian cities were either rubble or impoverished. Americans were flocking to the suburbs, and living better than their parents. The Blacks along with other poor folks knew their place. Parents told their kids to finish their meals on account of Chinese and Indians who were starving. Africa was below the radar.
 
It was a setting to encourage patriotism. The US had won the war and Americans were living better than any others. 
 
It soon developed that all was not well. The USSR became the new enemy. The Rosenbergs were a problem for Jews, some of whom saw the trial and execution as persecution, or a warning to be loyal. Other Jews saw the same things as justified against the national enemy. Blacks always included those who did not know their place, and those who came back from the war added to the ferment.
 
But it was still a simpler picture than now.
 
Since those good days, the US population has more than doubled, and its complexity has multiplied. Hispanics and Asians are all over the place, and--along with Blacks who have moved into the middle class and better--contribute their share of the movers and shakers. Jews have done well enough to have lost their designation as a minority. 
 
The outer world has changed at least as much. Europe is back in the game, and China has come from a basket case to a great power. 
 
Remember when the family physician was the wise man, who knew all there was to know. Now he--or just as likely she--is little more than a clerk and gatekeeper, passing on problems to specialists who have more knowledge than existed in the 1940s, but each with limited perspective and concern for only a part of us.
 
It's not surprising that attitudes have lagged behind realities, especially among us old farts who were shaped by school and personal experiences 60 and more years ago.
 
The old views come into my mailbox, typically from people who are about my age, and adhere to the notion that America is still at the top of the heap, and must do what is necessary to stay there.
 
My guess is that most who write that way are also well endowed with good jobs and/or pensions, the capacity to assure themselves the best of health care, and to help the grandchildren with private school and Ivy League tuition.  All the better if they are living in gated communities. 
 
National averages on just about everything important favor Western Europe and Japan, along with Israel and a few other places. 
 
Americans who won't believe the averages tell stories about individuals who've done well, been cured, and avoided violence in the US, and contrary stories of violence and economic problems elsewhere.
 
All the stories may be true. Individuals who are smart, and lucky, may find the good, avoid the bad, live long and well in any society. Yet the averages have meaning for the quality of what countries provide to their various parts.
 
Us coddled folks outside of the US pay higher taxes, but that's the price of civilization.
 
Freedom has been an American slogan forever. But it's also been deceptive. "No taxation without representation" was the bluff of American revolutionaries. The colonists' representation in the British Parliament was no less than the average Britisher, and probably more so given the capacity of American representatives to speak with the holders of power. The taxes complained about were paying for a recent war meant to protect the colonies from the French and Indians.
 
Whatever the intellectual merits, the American fascination with low taxes still echoes in lower quality education, health and other domestic services. Well-to-do Americans have access to what is as good as is available anywhere, but the averages do not make for national pride.
 
Paradise exists nowhere. Europeans and Americans who walk the streets of their cities--or who visit one another's turf--must be careful to avoid neighborhoods where they may lose wallets, dignity, and their lives.
 
Jews are doing better than others. Almost all have left the nasty places for better lives in Israel, North America, or Western Europe. One should not overlook the pogroms that occurred from ancient times to recent decades, certainly not the Holocaust, and the current worries about European Muslims. But our ancestors were on the top intellectually, as witness both collections called Bible, written by us or those who rebelled against the Judaic establishment when the vast majority of others could not read or write. Those of us who suffered from discrimination in the US or the USSR nonetheless managed to acquire higher incomes and better education than the mass.
 
Politics is nothing like it was in the late 1940s. Leave aside the empty blather that marks the United Nations and the "international community." The world is a competitive arena where the heads of top countries have to work in order to realize their claims.
 
US, major European countries, the EU, Russia, China, and Japan do better than others, but none of them control the planet.
 
The shallowness of claims that Bibi lost something by meddling in American politics reflect what's happened since 1945. To the extent that the US or any other country wants clout elsewere, it opens its politics to others. Recent events suggest that the Israeli Prime Minister has had about as much weight in the US as any single Senator or Cabinet Secretary, or any of the 50 Governors and 435 Members of the House of Representatives who struggle for prominence on the national stage.
 
Nothing is a slam dunk or an easy prediction.
 
Looking to the future one has to worry about the uglier side of Islam, how far that will spread among the one-seventh of the world population that are nominal adherents, and how the leaders of the "free world" (now defined as non-Muslim) will deal with the radicals in the Middle East and their own countries.
 
The view was a lot simpler from the playground of the Highland School in the 1940s.
 
Alas, the Highland School no longer exists. And its world was nothing like now.





Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.



Relevant to your professional network? Please share on Linkedin
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position or viewpoint of The Jerusalem Post. Blog authors are NOT employees, freelance or salaried, of The Jerusalem Post.

Think others should know about this? Please share