The title of this piece may seem stupid to many.
They would respond that obviously the U.S. is civilized. After all, we have a highly developed society and culture which is a definition of civilized. In addition, as a sign of our culture, they proudly point to our museums, theaters, and symphonies that, along with our colleges and universities, are among the best in the world.
Adjectives found in other definitions of civilized are humane, ethical and reasonable. Antonyms include barbaric, savage, and inhumane. Most of us would likely agree with the following sentence from https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/civilized:
A civilized society or country has a well developed system of government, culture, and way of life and that treats the people who live there fairly.
Definitions or use of civilized allow room for interpretations. For example, I would certainly agree the U.S. has a highly developed society and culture. However, our highly developed system of government has been badly corrupted to benefit the wealthy and powerful. As a result of this corruption, our government and economic system unethically prioritize profit for the few over the interests of the many. Hence I would argue having a highly developed society and culture does not necessarily imply fairness, and thus it isn’t necessarily evidence that the US is civilized.
For more evidence of inhumane behavior, would a civilized society accept or allow:
- the genocide of American Indians or slavery;
- a large number of people, including families with children, to be homeless;
- a judicial system that is terribly biased against minorities and the poor;
- education to be so expensive that many students will be encumbered with huge debts often requiring decades to pay off;
- health insurance and pharmaceutical industries to make the cost of health care so expensive that many people cannot afford it;
- some employers to pay workers less than what is necessary to provide the basics for their families;
- some citizens being kept from voting based on their race;
- the horrific abuse of refugees and immigrants;
- industry to pollute the air, water and soil, threatening the health of people living nearby; and
- the future of coming generations to be seriously harmed through our government’s inaction or our continuing a lifestyle that leads to a climate catastrophe?
In addition, the immoral war crimes we have committed against other nations, including the American Indian nations, display a shameful level of savagery and barbarism. For example, Admiral Leahy, Chief of Staff to presidents Roosevelt and Truman, criticized the use of the atomic bomb: “It is my opinion that the use of the barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan … The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender … My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.”
This unnecessary and illegal killing by the US of untold numbers while devastating countries and populations that were not a threat to it are hardly acts of a civilized nation.
The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center’s “Peace Train” runs Fridays in the Colorado Daily.