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February 8, 2014

The world must think we're nuts

By Sam Pollak
The Daily Star

---- — Full disclosure here: I have not surveyed the views of every one of the nearly 7 billion people on Earth who do not live in the United States. Still I feel on solid ground when I submit that the rest of the world must surely believe that Americans are crazy.

Oobatz … meshugah … totally nuts.

I am not referring here to the wackos who might spend a winter’s afternoon climbing flagpoles in only their (or someone else’s) underwear. Presumably every country has its share of those flamboyant loonies.

Rather, I am talking about the great mass of so-called normal people in this country whose mores and laws must certainly be giving the rest of the planet the heebie-jeebies.

For instance, every year whoever happens to be the president of the United States gives a speech in which not only the state of the union is discussed, but also the state of the entire world. The most powerful person in the most powerful economic and military nation is setting out an agenda that will likely affect everybody’s lives.

You would think that everybody would want to know then what’s coming down the pike.

Well … not so fast.

On Jan. 28, about 33.3 million Americans watched President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address.

Five days later, about 111.5 million Americans watched the Super Bowl.

(OK, I was one of them, but goldarnit, I watched the speech, too.)

More than three times as many people caring more about a football game than the future of their country? Surely, foreigners must wonder about that.

During the game, Coca-Cola presented a commercial in which “America the Beautiful” was sung in several languages, and a gay couple is seen for a few seconds roller-skating with their daughter.

Those across the seas who might have seen the reaction of some far-right conservative bloggers and media to that commercial would likely see straitjackets for use in the United States as a wise investment. They probably could not fathom why the Coke ad was somehow unpatriotic.

Former tea party congressman Allen West wrote this in a blog: “If we cannot be proud enough as a country to sing ‘American (sic) the Beautiful’ in English in a commercial during the Super Bowl, by a company as American as they come — doggone we are on the road to perdition.”

Fox News commentator Todd Starnes sent out this tweet: “Couldn’t make out that song they were singing. I only speak English.”

Maybe the condescending idiot should have hummed along, then.

And then there was Breitbart’s Michael Patrick Leahy, who was upset because Coke played “a deeply Christian patriotic anthem whose theme is unity — in several foreign languages,” and (as if this is sinful) the “ad also prominently features a gay couple.”

Well, guess what, fellas, the words to “America the Beautiful” were written by Katharine Lee Bates in 1893. Ms. Bates may or may not have been a lesbian, but never married, and lived for 25 years in an intimate, loving relationship with a woman named Katharine Cornan. And, oh yes, Bates was a socialist.

But the main thing that must make those in other countries think of us as a nation of fools is our caring more about our guns than our children.

A Yale University study published in the journal Pediatrics revealed that emergency rooms in the United States treated 7,391 children for injuries caused by firearms in 2009.

That is more than twice the number — 2,996 — of people who were killed by terrorists on 9/11. Ah, but the children were only (ONLY!) wounded, you say? Well, for starters 6 percent of those kids died from their injuries. That’s about 443 children and adolescents.

On top of that, the American Academy of Pediatrics estimates more than 3,000 additional children die each year from gun-inflicted injuries before reaching the emergency rooms.

Avenging the 2,996 who died on 9/11 caused us to get into two wars. But what about the more than 10,000 yearly dead and wounded American children? How are we supposed to avenge them?

Any foreigners who might suggest us passing a law or two putting reasonable restrictions on the guns killing and maiming our children obviously don’t understand America. They can’t understand that kind of crazy illogic. Surely, they must think us mad.

But if they do, why do so many of them want to live here? In 2011, 40.4 million immigrants accounted for fully 13 percent of the U.S. population.

Those foreigners must be a little nuts, too.

Sam Pollak is the editor of The Daily Star. He can be reached at spollak@thedailystar.com or at (607) 432-1000, ext. 208. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/sampollak.