Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Is America Slipping?

The headline is the thrust of this set of questions that may not have specific answers. But, the Winter Olympics, and our country's less-than-excellent showing, has me looking back on the last 50, or so, years and wondering....

-Does the U.S. have the same type of dominance that it once had in just about everything?

We seemed to always be first...or at least in a tie for almost any field of endeavor. Sports, business, education, and, of course, war come to mind. We became used to being on top in the Olympics, commerce of all kinds, and just about anything else where our people and resources were pitted against those of another country, or countries.

In recent years, it seems to me, that has all changed. Some of the examples in the sports world where we are just another player...

The Ryder Cup (golf's great competition between the U.S. and Europe)
The aforementined Olympics..(both Winter and Summer...even the sports we used to dominate, i.e. basketball, track, baseball, softball, are much more competitive than in the past)
Baseball..(Latin America has been the dominant producer of talent in recent years)
World Cup Soccer (The women have been good, the men haven't)

As for business, we are still the dominant economy in the world, but not to the degree we were accustomed to in the mid to late 20th century. Auto manufacturers in Europe and the Orient are producing arguably better cars and pricing them competitively. We all know the problems of the major automakers in Detroit. Heavy industry seems to be moving off our shores to other parts of the world. Even the highly technical industries are finding homes in other countries and thriving because of the cheap, but intelligent, labor forces there.

Even in war, coudn't it be said that we've been rather inefficient and suspect? Since World War II things haven't exactly been a breese. The Korean, Viet Nam, Gulf, Iraq, and current global war on terror aren't exactly reasons for victory celebrations.

Why is this happening? Or am I just over-protective of our country's erstwhile "number 1-in-everything" status? Is this just a product of the more intimate planet earth? A place where we are all a lot closer together than we were 50-75 years ago. The earth's citizens are all a lot more educated and up-to-speed with technology than in the past. Most everyone, with the exception of the most depressed third-world nations, is on the internet, and informed instantly of world events by television, radio, computer, and cell phone communication.

As much as anything, I would say we've exported our society, and our lifestyle, to other continents and countries to the point where they appreciate, and can excel in, the same activities we do. So, in that case it's not surprising that we should have to be more competitive to remain on top.

Should we accept that the world is catching up and, in many cases, passing us in our formerly one-sided activities? Should we be happy that the rest of the world is not really "the rest of the world" any more? Should we say..."Good for them!" or should we look at ourselves and wonder what we're doing wrong? Can we be more passionate about our education, sports endeavors, and business lives? Do we need to be?

Our country and society has been built on the opportunity and freedom to achieve individually, and collectively. Shouldn't we be always striving to be number 1 to prove that our way of doing things is the best? Mediocrity...and settling for it... is nothing to be celebrated.

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