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HOW GREAT IS THE UNITED STATES?

Hillary Clinton claims America is still great, but could do with some mending. Gritting teeth, Donald Trump spits out it’s no longer great and that he is the only man who can Make America Great Again. Believing both, you’d think the United States had sunk into an unstable rift valley floor with active fault lines running along each side.

Edward Hopkins

Geologically two major Rift Valleys dissect North America – the Mid-Continent Rift System (North and South) and the Rio Grande (West and East). Geopolitically, the Donald fault lines veer upwards steeper than the Rockies and is best climbed with a pickaxe tied to the belt. The Hillary fault lines wind through the Appalacian Mountains and needs to be negotiated behind the wheel of a Ford Territory SUV.

How great is the United States? As good a measure as any is what occurs on the sport field. All modern sport codes feature their respective codified rules and regulations. Each hinges on defined boundary fault lines relating to game starts, restarts, and scoring results. The greats of sport nearly always find themselves closer to the right side of the fault line than their opponents.

While it can be said sport outcomes, unlike the game of geopolitics, have the bonus of refereeing, scoring systems and defined boundaries, there are similarities. In the United States, Presidential, Senate, and Congressional elections adhere to time frames, boundaries, voting systems, and regulatory obligations.

Good luck to the Democratic and Republican nominations. The crucial lesson sport theory tells us is that great players and teams make better sense of the inevitable disturbances that lie between the fault lines. When mistakes are made or exhaustion sets in they recover at a quicker rate than their opponents.

American football is a case in point. Each team fronts with a strategic game plan that rarely goes according to the script. Between the side and touchdown lines what happens next in a team’s offensive or defensive actions? Who takes the best advantage of the gaps that appear? Who gets punished most for the gaps it has exposed? The great players and teams stay great because they thrive at negotiating uncertainty and, compared to their respective opponents, recover quickly from their mistakes.

Given these two key indicators the prospects of the United States retaining its greatness appear doubtful. Why? Because a familiar playing field no longer exists. It has become seriously warped. Gaping fault lines are popping up everywhere. Its great players and teams no longer have the opportunity to display their talent, organisational skills, and work ethic on a fair and competitive field.

To repair the torn pieces constantly widening, Hillary’s approach is careful stitching together, while Donald wants to cover any gap by building brick walls. In such circumstances each leaves themselves easily exposed to unexpected, unfamiliar tumults. At present it is the prospect of living in tumultuous times that seemingly favours Donald’s paradoxical campaign.

With buckets of money in hand, he is planting improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the middle of a sinking field of play. If Osama Bid Laden were still alive today he would be impressed with Donald’s game plan. The playing field no longer offers the capacity for making sense of chance or recovery. It becomes dysfunctional. By ensuring folly, he begins to skew logic and common sense. He becomes the Coach, not the President.

A multitude of wide open mouths have become convinced that Donald sitting behind the Oval Desk, offers solutions. He gets to choose who is in or out of the once great United States team to recover its greatness. He can do so because unwanted opponents no longer exist. Does this make sense? No. Greatness hinges on making good sense of uncertainties, not the other way around. Eliminating uncertainty to achieve supremacy is where the seeds of totalitarianism are found.

My interest in sport theory was formed at an early age on the other side of the world. Growing up in a sunken Latrobe River Rift Valley located in the south-east corner of the Australian continent the greatness of the United States was never in doubt. My homeland region is famous for its massive brown coal reserves that lie beneath a thin valley floor crust that is open cut mined for fuel to feed mighty power generation stations above ground. Set in a glorious hinterland, the open cut mines and power stations are laid out like a gridiron field.

As a kid glued to a black and white television I watched Leave it to Beaver, I Love Lucy, and Walt Disney’s Disneyland. I saw snippets of gridiron football. I was entranced watching my older sister and brother rock ‘n roll in our lounge room to Elvis Presley’s Jail House Rock. Rod Laver and Roy Emerson were the greatest ever tennis players. The only team that had any chance of beating them in the Davis Cup was the USA. I was seven years old and forlorn when the Soviet Union won more medals than America at the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games. Dad consoled me by saying the Commies were cheats, which would turn out to be true.

In addition to watching American television shows and sport I listened a lot to my parents and neighbours talk about war. Often, I was reminded the Japanese came close to invading Australia and it was the United States that came to our rescue during the Battle of the Coral Sea, which turned back the enemy advance from the north. That was recent history. More troubling was scary Cold War news items. Next door to the family home, for protection against nuclear attack our neighbours dug an underground bomb shelter in their backyard. During the Cuban Missile Crisis I shivered in my bedroom. When President Kennedy stood his ground and showed everyone who was the boss, I felt much better.

Where did I come from? During my childhood years I never felt hick. All around me were successful images of modern might amid a child’s playground that I reckon was as good as Huckleberry Finn’s. Now it seems like I have a dose of SIRI animism. Often, I wonder who I am. Only now am I beginning to understand my origins. A considerable portion is American and oddly Japanese. In both cases there is no parental genetic link. Now I’m thinking it stems from being born in a rift valley at a time shortly after major wartime engagement.

Having the United States on our side was great. But it seemed remarkable how quickly the Japanese recovered from war defeat. As a teenager I could see this happening by the number of Toyota Coronas filling the local car yards. Rather than armaments, new American and Japanese inventions kept popping up everywhere in competition with each other. You barracked for the Yanks, yet people kept buying Japanese goods in the shops.

The conclusion was the United States still remained great because whatever it did, others followed. The problem, however, was victory and defeat started occurring simultaneously. The more it bombed Vietnam and neighbouring countries, the quicker it lost the war. The more it increased cumbersome ground forces and weaponry the more it became vulnerable to the Vietcong’s guerrilla inventive deception ploys.

When it invaded Iraq and Afghanistan with massive military might, proclaiming Mission Accomplished, already the enemy had began devising the IEDs that continue shattering American confidence on the playing field. The most horrific IED to date is the hijacked domestic aircraft crashing into the World Trade Centre Twin Towers and Pentagon.

Again, the United States appeared to have a winner with its introduction of drone warfare. From afar, its military had developed the capacity to guide a person-less lethally equipped drone scanning anyone, anywhere, then launch a stealthy kill. Anyone with the misfortune of being nearby and dying was listed as collateral damage in the interests of the United States.

Nowadays, anyone (even a Jihadist) can walk with ease into another great American intervention, the supermarket chain, and buy a drone outfit off the shelf at a reasonably low price. At home or in a secret location, they can then equip the drone with a minuscule IED and secretly fly it on a devious mission of their choosing.

The United States invention of invisible warfare has made the enemy more lethal and elusive. The continual victory resulting in defeat is causing immeasurable dismay even among shoppers. Visiting their own supermarket chains, Americans find it difficult to see a label that says, Made In America.

Loathe it they may but, like anyone from anywhere, Americans are quick to hunt for the best product at the best price. Often, it’s not just this that daunts them. On a quality count the products from elsewhere are the winners. Americans invented the motorcar and now vehicles from everywhere flood their sales floors and generally are much better vehicles.

The United States’ greatness became questionable at the moment it dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima with a cutely named B-29 Fortress Bomber, Enola Gay, and the bomb itself code-named, Little Boy.

God Bless America. The citizens of Hiroshima had no chance. It was not sport. Not even warfare. Unleashing unexpected instant radiation annihilation and lifelong disfigurement on citizens is the ultimate supremacy. The dropping of the Atomic bomb eliminated more familiar warfare tactics such as capture, imprisonment, torture, banishment and slavery. 

Annihilation is not a recipe for greatness when nothing else exists.

During my late teenager and young adulthood years I was attracted to the songs of Bob Dylan, especially when he sung, With God on Our Side, describing how Americans justified the continual slaughtering of innocents and the underprivileged. His words rang an even louder bell when I learnt that Hitler’s Nazi Germany proclaimed Gott Mit Uns (God Is With Us).

As I grew up, dad and mum referred to the Latrobe Valley as a Garden of Eden  like a regulated sport field amid a lush hilly and mountainous hinterland. I never thought they meant it was God’s Country, like the Yanks were fond of saying, but rather the opposite. Both parents were on the secular side. They were determined to leave behind the personal and family traumas experienced during the Great Depression and WW2 years. In the rift valley where we lived they recognized that a fuel tank and power engine were driving their faith in a modern and civil society,

A measure of greatness on the sporting field is not just the famous legacy performances that remain in living memory or in history books, but the influence those legacies have had on how the specific game is viewed and played by future generations. A similar principle applies to the great sacred texts – the Bible, Koran, Torah, and Ladakh.

Today, each of these sacred texts, in book sales and influence among all religions, political creeds, civil and impoverished societies, has been outpaced by what has grown from an invention of the great British Empire – the Association Football, Laws of the Game, published in 1863.

First known as ‘Soccer’ (derived from the words, Association Football; which is still the name applied in America, Australia, and New Zealand), the game is now simply referred to as football, which has bloomed to the extent it is generally acknowledged as The Beautiful Game. The four yearly staging of the World Cup has become the most watched and reverenced event on the planet.

While catering to competitive tribalism, as all sports are inclined to do, the additional appeal of football includes a strict adherence to the on-field fair competitive play and skilful aesthetics. And most important is the strict adjudication of on-field behaviour prohibiting the ball carrier to be physically tackled.

Coming second on the scale of most watched and reverenced event on the planet is the alternating four yearly modern Olympics. Again, the same principles apply of fostering fair competitiveness, civility, aesthetic appeal, and the avoidance of conflict producing carnage. The origins of the modern Olympics can be traced back to the legacies of the great Hellenic Golden Age 500 to 300 BC.

On both counts the World Cup and modern Olympics the principles embodied by the British Empire and Hellenic Golden Age hold sway. Why the greatness of the United States is in so much strife and confusion, especially according to Donald, is precisely in what he advocates – the American relishing of on-field carnage.

The most watched and reverenced sport within the United States is affectionately referred to as Gridiron. The origins of American Football during the 1870s, initially stemming from British rugby, were first framed within the privileged confines of Yale University. The main local inventions diverging from rugby and Association Football were the introduction of the line of scrimmage, down-and-distance, and legitimisied interference.

There is no doubt American Football offers intriguing contests featuring breathtaking forwards drives and spectacular impact assaults upon the team in possession. Its fiercely structured tactical combat plays and over-coaching is unique. As in its rugby origins, an ever-present theme in American Football today is the virtue of a militaristic Christian muscularity.

Big in the United States, elsewhere gridiron is relegated to play in a minor league. It has become a symbol of an ever-widening fault line confronting Americans. Football’s elegance and avoidance of carnage matters the most. Greatness implies being above average and on the right side of the fault line. And if not, quickly recovering to get back into a winning position.

What Hillary and Donald are proposing is nowhere near the mark. Hillary says some modest stitching will do the job. Donald wants to construct walls to hold back the spread of toxic weeds. In these supposedly great modern times, the relishing of on-field carnage, the failure of gun control and a nuclear arms race with a proven track record for annihilating other country’s citizens is no recipe for greatness.

Other than a muscular lust for carnage there is a long list of progressive great legacy candidates emerging from the United States, including the American Declaration of Independence, the American Constitution, and the early acceptance of migrants from elsewhere.

The beneficiaries stemming from these influences became today’s new forms of music, film, art, writing, television, and photography dominating universal attention. From Silicon Valley, the legacy candidates that have emerged are Apple Macintosh, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Instagram.

My early auto-acceptance and love of American greatness began to dissipate as I matured and gained knowledge from elsewhere. While respect will always remain, in my book a self-proclaimed greatness in the name of God alone does not qualify anyone to play in the major league.

Now sitting at my desk with an Apple Macbook Air keyboard logged onto the Pages word program, where every keystroke entered is saved not in a local database that I manage, but in my auto-acceptance of Steve Job’s vision for an iCloud. Is Apple’s SIRI animistic vision and function a new greatness legacy coming from the United States that will capture almost everything everywhere, as did the Hellenic Golden Age and British Empire?

An iCloud vision traces the familiar fault lines that keep popping up everywhere that the United States has difficulty negotiating – simultaneous victory and defeat. If the iCloud is genuinely like an actual cloud formation it cannot be contained or schooled. Among Americans the iCloud is not seen as wondrous atmospheric formations available for all to ponder and do as they please.

That the iCloud appears as another American self-congratulatory mirroring their greatness is in no doubt because it maintains the control key. Herein lie the narcissistic follies of Hillary and Donald. The moment each bends down to touch their reflection, beneath the still, reflective surface, someone from somewhere has planted an IED.

 

Comments

Tuan Barbati

Tuan Barbati

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Sun

Sun

I was attempting to read about the North American mid-continental rift, and somehow I happened upon this steaming heap of excrement. Perhaps, in millions of years, it will become a useful deposit of fossil fuel?

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