On March 12, 2017, Iowa Rep. Steve King made the controversial statement, “You cannot rebuild your civilization with somebody else's babies. You've got to keep your birth rate up, and that you need to teach your children your values. In doing so, you can grow your population; you can strengthen your culture.”
Rep. King’s comments were widely criticized by many people because they appeared to be encouraging a racist or nationalistic concept of what represents American culture. Rep. King’s comments were equally criticized by Republican and Democrats alike. Now, Rep. King’s ideas of a homogenous American culture indeed would seem to be widely divergent of America’s institutional society. However, there is also a massive glowing problem with King’s statements that seemed to fall completely through the cracks. If the goal is for the United States of America to build up its civilization with its own babies, we are doing a terrible job at it. Why? Well, because the U.S. has an infant mortality rate on par with Serbia and Malaysia.
According to the World Health Organization, the United States of America ranks fifth in the world for highest number of infant deaths. Compared to other developed countries in the world, America’s infant mortality rate is a grotesque national embarrassment. Consistently, every year twice the number of U.S. babies die on their first day of life, then all 27 European Union nations combined.
Ultimately, what Rep. King’s comments represent is this obstinate refusal that many of us engage in. We reject the often arduous task of bettering ourselves through introspection. It is inherently easy to attribute blame to others, rather than look within to solve the source of problems. America could lock all of its doors, and admonish Lady Liberty to the bottom of the Upper New York Bay. However, that still wouldn’t do anything to change the culture happiness and health of Americans. Essentially, it was a logical facially for Rep. King to say that he places paramount importance on keeping the birth rate up to spread American culture when he fails to acknowledge that the U.S. has one of the highest rates of infant mortality in the world. Those two ideas are in conflict with each other.
Make no mistake, King’s comments are only one isolated example of how we often overlook the important things that make societies great. People are easy to become lulled into thinking that most major existential threats occur from the outside. In reality, it is the exact opposite.
Now, threats are something I have significant experience in. My entire adult life has been spent defending people from threats to their life, and property. Basically, as a law enforcement officer, I have been a pursuer of justice and defender of righteousness from a multitude of asymmetrical and continuous threats. With that experience I can say without a doubt, there are always two kinds of threats to anything that exist. There external threats and there are internal threats.
External threats are unremitting yet easily defended against. Because external threats attack the outside of the body inherently must pass through natural or artificially established defenses. Every time an external threat adapts to penetrate the defenses, the body always has the upper hand of having the high ground and can rather quickly counter defend itself.
Internal threats, on the other hand, are much more destructive and damaging and ultimately it is the internal threat that will bring the body down. Consider it by the analogy that no poison is effective unless it exists within the body.
When we as a society fail to recognize internal threats, we are in effect, willfully refusing actually to make legitimate strides to protect our existence. Two of the biggest internal threats to America are poverty and healthcare. The methods of combating these threats are education and increasing the availability of quality health services. At the end of the day, poverty, and poor health are like the roots of the American threat systems that grow and branch out into all other aspects of society that keep people up at night, such as crime, homelessness, mental health, etc.
People fear takeovers by religious minorities or a shudder at the thought that some cultural, linguistic shift from people speaking “American.” In reality, these things aren’t even curtailed by rallying the troops and putting up a shield wall around the populous. In truth, that is probably the absolute worst thing we could do because presently we aren’t “winning” internally.
Compared to the rest of the world, the United States ranks, 14th in overall educational performance, 24th in literacy, and 14th in College graduates.
When it comes to health, America ranks 34th in overall healthcare performance, 43rd in life expectancy rate, 6th highest in cancer risk, and 65th for death rate for heart disease. The United States alarmingly ranks #1 in the world for highest rate of mental illness and is in 50th place out of 171 nations for the highest rate of suicide. 66% more people killed themselves in America than people were murdered in 2015.
In response, to these statistics, the United States ranks 54th in the world for economic expenditures on education, and 134th in the world regarding government commitment to education.
Now, the United States ranks 1st in total health care spending regarding the gross domestic product (GDP) rate. However, in light of the massive amounts that Americans spend on healthcare, the actual mental and physical health of Americans is nowhere close to being on par with dollar for dollar value. We are paying Ruth’s Chris prices. However, we are getting a buffet cut of flat iron steak.
The rising cost of healthcare, without dramatic correlation to the overall increase in healthiness, has caused many Americans to turn against and blame the 15.8% of uninsured Americans. In essence, we assume that we must be paying more for our healthcare because we must compensate for these uninsured dredges on society. However, the truth is that 30% of healthcare cost are related to administrative services and not healthcare at all.
The two categories that the United States unquestionably dominates the rest of the world are in defense/military expenditures and our GDP market rate. Basically, we are a wealthy and powerful, but undereducated, unhappy and unhealthy bunch.
Now, understand I’m not saying all of this as some harsh admonishment of the United States of America. I’m not wagging my finger in shame at my fellow Americans. Conversely, I am one of you. Indeed, I am one of the multitudes that mitigate and facilitate our internal threats. I bring these things up not because I believe all hope is lost and we mine as well tuck our head between our legs and kiss our ass goodbye. It is the exact opposite. In actuality, I love this country!
A month ago, I walked around Washington D.C. looking at the monuments in the early morning hours by myself. With the exception, of a handful of late night tourist, I was virtually all alone. In the still of the night, alone with the monuments the essence of America was vibrant and alive. In the absence of onlookers, and while the hustle and bustle of the Nation’s capital asleep, it was like the soul of America arose from the ground to reclaim the virtues that have been long buried. It wasn’t that the ghostly figures of American history came out to walk the earth. Rather, it was even stronger than that. It was an intangible ideal of freedom and belief that people should be afforded the ability to be the best they can be. It was an idyllic concept that exists in the confines of belief, only because the human propensity to error has never allowed that principle to flourish to its highest potential.
So, I don’t bring up these internal threats to scare us. I don’t bring up our faults to embarrass us. Rather, I bring up these issues because they are the unfortunate truths we tune out of our daily lives, to take the easy roads of false solutions. I want our house to be great, if for no other reason than for our children someday. However, while we have our front door dead bolted and our eyes nervously glued to the windows, the real killer has his feet propped up on our couch in the living room. We have allowed ourselves to ignore it and let that killer arrogantly take up residence amongst us. Ultimately, we need to do something about it before it actually is too late.