I’m writing this column sitting in the airport in Amsterdam, waiting to switch airplanes and come home after a truly glorious vacation. I didn’t want to wait to write the column until I got home out of fear I would forget too much.
Over the past two weeks, me, my wife and my two kids traveled to Copenhagen, Demark; St. Petersburg, Russia; Helsinki, Finland; Tallin, Estonia; Stockholm, Sweden and Visby, Sweden. The sights, sounds, smells and history were amazing. So were the kindness of all of the people we had the honor and pleasure of meeting in these countries.
Many of the countries I visited are on the list of those countries that many in the United States want us to emulate, mirror or become. After all, the residents of these countries get everything for free, including health care, education and a guaranteed retirement plan. The problem is that nearly two-thirds of Americans have never left the country. They hear things on the TV and radio about how wonderful things are everywhere else, gobble it up, and spit it back out as gospel. I made sure to ask questions on my trip. Lots of questions.
Absolutely nothing that any of these countries are giving away is free. Quite the contrary. The average worker pays somewhere between 47 to 53 percent of their salary for all of these “free” social welfare benefits. But it gets worse….. The average Eurpoean earns less than an American worker does as well. Medical care is not only not “free” but if you need a surgical procedure you do get on waiting lists. You wait your turn.
Let’s just talk about day to day living. Almost nobody lives in a private single family home. At least in the cities, they almost don’t exist. Most people are paying exorbitant amounts of money for rent in an apartment that is a few hundred square feet. Almost any condominium in Dade, Broward or Palm Beach would be considered luxury in any of these countries. Our luxury condominiums are like something out of a fairy-tale for many.
Everyone drives cars that make the Toyota Camry look like a stretch limousine. You know why? Because the price of gasoline is about six dollars a gallon. Gasoline is unaffordable. You can also forget large scale super-markets. They don’t exist. You shop in little stores. That’s why foreigners can’t believe their eyes when they stumble upon a Publix for the first time. It’s an Oasis.
Everything I picked up in terms of clothing is cheaper in the United States. Sneakers included. Our shopping malls are far superior than any I have seen anywhere in Europe. In fact, it is difficult to think of almost anything that simply isn’t bigger and better in The United States.
But all of those differences pale in comparison to the biggest difference between Denmark, Sweden, Finland and The United States. In all of the countries that I visited I did not see a single person of color in two weeks. Not a single one. What becomes astonishingly clear quite quickly, is that all of the people in these countries look just like each other. The same features. I could not care what their publicly reported immigration numbers say, there simply is little to no immigration into any of these countries. I can tell you that I have been on tours where it was made pretty clear that not only is there no immigration, but that is not going to change any time soon as these countries are very protective of their culture and way of life.
Anyone who compares The United States to any of these countries or who yearns to become them simply have no clue what they are talking about. Our ability to lead productive lives, earn a living, live in luxury, drive in luxury, travel and entertain ourselves is second to none. All the time while living in the strongest country militarily in the entire world and the most diversified population anywhere on the planet.
Do we have problems in our country and in our communities? Of course we do. Is crime more of a problem in The United States than in other countries? It is. Just look at Chicago on any given weekend. Are mass shootings more of a problem in The United States. They are. So here’s the real question that everyone hints at but few have the guts to speak about………..Is it possible that with all we have here, we just don’t care for each other and respect each other like the people in these very homogeneous communities do? It may be hard to argue otherwise. Finland, for example, is second to the United States in gun sales. They love their guns in Finland. Yet, they don’t shoot each other with no mass shootings in a dozen years.
What say you? Is our diversity what makes The United States a unique wonderful place in the world? Or, is it the cause of why we often times don’t get along with each other? Can both of these statements be correct?