U.S. INFANT DEATH, CIVIC WEALTH, BEER
Inspired by a heart-wrenching NPR story overheard this morning, I bring frightening news of infant mortality rates in America: we rank 36 out of 196 nations (according to the WHO), and Mississippi's rate is just as high as Russia's, with an 11.4% rate per every 1,000 births. Check out this index for some global perspective.
Why is this not a larger news item? Are these tragedies endemic to minority groups in southern states, slung down an Orwellian memory hole like the horror that is the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina?
Southern regional director for the Children's Defense Fund, Oleta Fitzgerald, told NPR, "Nobody wants to take care of poor children, whether they are black or white or whatever color."
I know that threat of poverty among U.S. citizens has become this monstrous elephant in the room for most mid to upper class folks in this country--some Marxist instructor of mine in Santa Cruz once noted that the top 10% of wealthy Americans are under the illusion that they rank in the top 1%. A measurement that is questionable to be sure, but I would make the argument that this mass delusion has been made salient by recent measures passed by this administration over the past 5 or some odd years. But why all the denial? Why don't people realize how impoverished their quality of life really is in this country?
To me, real wealth isn't measured by how easy it is to pay off a mortgage, or buy an excessive amount of sport utility vehicles. It is measured by how able one is to exert political authority and actually become an acknowledged citizen of the United States. Whether they are lobbyists, members of a 527, or even a significant individual donor to a political campaign, the wealthy are the ones who are in a position to assert their own authority, enabling them to remain in the top tiers of society for the rest of their natural born lives. I probably sound very naive in this assessment, but I think that Americans in general cannot fully conceptualize the weight and breadth of all that this simple notion implies.
On a not-so-much-but-still-kind-of-in-a-sick-way brighter note, a recent Rand McNally survey (the road map making dudes) showed that, of all the presidential hopefuls, Rudolph Giuliani was ranked the number one road trip buddy for this summer! Why is this important? Well, for a nation who voted into office the candidate they would most like to grab a beer with, an awful lot.
Masha Gessen is the author of *The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia*, which will be published in October. In the July issue of Har...
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