By Anthony Karamourtopoulos
Department of Political Science Professor Robert Hislope spoke on an uncommon topic in the American political canon this past Thursday: the decline of America.
Hislope has a bone to pick with “virtually all American politicians who routinely and religiously sprinkle their speeches with phrases like ‘the greatest country in the world,’ the ‘world’s greatest democracy’ and ‘only in America can one rise from rags to riches.’”
While Hislope recognizes these phrases as historical sayings that were adopted during our colonial beginnings, he begs Union students and American citizens alike to question how these “ideological precepts hold up today.”
For Hislope, these words, when coming from the mouths of American politicians, are blatant fabrications that need to be addressed.
In his words, “there is a deep chasm between the promise and the performance of America, between its ideology and its reality, between its myths and its truths,” and Hislope has the facts to prove it.
Hislope held a discussion in Breazzano house, donning a Che Guevara t-shirt. He was eager to present a set of PowerPoint slides illustrating this decline, which he asserts is “a phenomenon I have observed for over a decade now.”
For some at Union, Hislope’s statement is a breath of fresh air; for others, it is a road they would much rather not travel down.
Regardless of political affiliation, no one can deny Hislope’s interest in the political, social and moral well-being of our country.
Hislope addressed a number of issues in the U.S. that need attention.
His PowerPoint slides provided a variety of statistics, many presenting information provided by the New York Times and Huffington Post, which support his claim.
During his talk, Hislope covered some of the most important areas of concern, which were illustrated in graphs showing changes in top income shares and top marginal tax rates since 1960. This proved severe inequalities regarding concentration of wealth in the U.S.
As a consequence, America has the greatest amount of poverty of any country in the world.
In addition to economic inequality, Hislope informed us that the U.S ranks 84th in female legislative representation.
In fact, Hislope asserts that America perpetuates greater notions of inequality than any other advanced industrialized society in the world.
As he explained, we cannot deny that our country’s economic, gender and racial inequalities contribute to a number of harsh realities.
For example, America has more gun violence in the world than most other countries.
In calculating the number of prisoners per 100,000 citizens, studies show that America incarcerates more of our population than any other country in the world, with Rwanda coming in a not-so-close second. Rwanda incarcerates 527 of its citizens per 100,000, while the U.S. incarcerates 716 of its citizens per 100,000.
Hislope asked attendees of the talk to look at the system responsible for producing these numbers. To him, the numbers simply fail to coincide with America’s claim of “equal opportunity for all.”
Furthermore, Hislope drew attention to statistics claiming America as the world leader in categories such as lowest life expectancy and highest cases of mental illness.
Considering these facts, Hislope asks how we can consider ourselves to be the greatest democracy in the world.
According to the London-based Economist magazine, which Hislope considered to be pro-business and conservative, America is ranked the 17th best democracy in the world.
Hislope agrees with the ranking, citing a number of European social democracies that, through considerable investments in education, health, families and job training, have created societies in which it is “more likely for sons and daughters to climb above their parents’ income and occupational levels.”
Hislope does not see the practicality in America’s system of capitalism, which “reduces state spending and lets everything go to the market.”
Concluding his criticism of America’s self-proclaimed identity as the world’s greatest democracy, Hislope stated, “In short, our ideology does us little service. It offers a pretend, fake country that cannot really cover the pain and suffering that is modern America. No wonder we have a society filled with angry, stressed out, violent, confused people.”
His hope is that Union students, upon graduation, can enter the world with these facts in mind and work toward helping our country progress on an economic and moral level. As his presentation stressed, this process starts with learning the truth.