jeudi 3 novembre 2011

Born in the U.S.A.!


Le présent article a été rédigé par Jacquie Bridonneau, que je remercie. Une traduction en français sera publiée prochainement.

Of course, this song by Bruce Springsteen is one of those collective memories – actually in quite a few age groups. One of those songs that rightly criticize American involvement in wars, and we could say in their general policies, with a fatalistic refrain, that when you were “Born in the U.S.A.” that was how things were, and there was not too much to be done about it.

Having lived in France for a very long time, I am of course split between my love of both countries, varying in their different political, economic and social programs.  This summer I was able to go back to the US for almost three weeks; it had been three years since I had been able to take a vacation there, and with this time-frame gap, I thought maybe there would be some notable differences, with the impact of the second part of the double dip economic slide, in the wake of the 2008 crisis.

I can say that in my opinion, we are down indeed, but defiantly not out, nor have we thrown in the towel. The general mood in France is one of gloomy resignation, or the strict opposite, of violent strikes, which, while scoring high on public opinion polls in the media, do not accomplish much except to bother the average Joe and his neighbors while they are trying to go to work or more generally get on with their lives. Yes, though I don’t drink beer, I can identify myself with Joe Six Pack, the average person, the middle class consumer, the one who makes the whole economy work, and who generally is the target of any tax hikes or any drops in acquired benefits.

I think this is also true in the US. With the subprime mortgage crisis, the average American household has been more severely impacted in the past few years than the average French household. Yet, they are holding their own, putting up a good fight, doing their best and weathering the storm. Without the advantages of our umbrella-state French protection, Americans in general have to look out for themselves, plan way ahead for the future, their kid’s college education, their health issues and generally their retirement.  Much of this is taken for granted in France: we have withholding contributions taken out of our paychecks every month.  These go to pay for a part of our health care and our retirement funds – however for a vast majority of middle class French people, this shields them from any danger, just like a mother hen hovers over her chicks.  The fox however is just behind the shed – and there is not too much to be done against such an adversary.

Looking out for yourself seems and is self-evident in the US, whereas in France this is something “new” – something that has, in the memory of the current generation, been done by generous governmental programs: cheap or free medication and health care, cheap or free universities or further education, not to mention a pension with is indexed to the cost of living and generally increases once or sometimes twice a year.

So because of this, there is quite a fundamental difference in the outlook of many of us, born in the U.S.A. and French people.  Though times are rough for everyone, many Americans are used to or could we say, forced to fend for themselves, whereas in France, any dip in benefits often results to people taking to the streets, defending their “acquired” rights, without a thought to sustainability of these rights. Economy nearly grinds to a halt, especially in sensitive sectors such as public transportation, where some of those with the most benefits are always the first to call a strike.  Americans are more team than individual players, and what the world needs now, is a winning team on the global playing field.

Dedicated to Don Wandler, my brother-in-law.

             


 

 

 

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