Helen Thomas and American quality of life

Poor Helen Thomas exemplifies why America does, in fact, have the highest quality of life the world over. Photo: United Press International

It’s ironic that often those who have received the most forbearance, benefits and blessings from having lived in America are the ones who appreciate it the least. Like spoiled children, they seem at times to cry out for discipline. Thank God we live under a Constitution and Bill of Rights that allow individuals to say and believe whatever they want.

Poor Helen Thomas is a case in point. Her outspoken disdain for the nation of Israel and seemingly anyone who doesn’t share her stance on Middle East policy, finally resulted in some consequences (see transcript below). I think the fact that someone like Thomas was given front-row access to the American president and held in esteem despite being a pretty hateful person and clearly a bigot for well over five decades is hard evidence that America offers a high standard of living.

I was called to task a couple weeks ago for saying, “This country enjoys the world’s highest standard of living” in the piece Illegal immigration enforcement: Human rights abuse or national interest protection. The critic said I failed to back this statement up with references.

If you seek the United Nations as the arbiter of best countries in the world to live, you’d quickly move to Norway. The United Nations ranks it the best place in the world to live by the U.N.’s quality-of-life index. Norway has been in the top spot on the U.N.’s Human Development Index list since 1995. The Index “ranks 177 countries through a composite measurement of life expectancy, education, adult literacy rates, school enrollments, GDP and per capita income — to reflect the best place to live.”  America ranks number eight.

The Mercer 2010 Quality of Living Survey picked Vienna as the city with the world’s best quality of living. “Zurich and Geneva follow in second and third position, respectively, while Vancouver and Auckland remain joint fourth in the rankings.” Mercer is a consulting firm that provides the rankings based on 10 criteria, including political and social environment, health care, public transportation, etc. The rankings are based on a point-scoring index. Interestingly, all cities are ranked against New York as the base city, with an index score of 100 (Vienna scored 108.6; Baghdad 14.7).

Why the survey? According to Slagin Parakatil, senior researcher at Mercer, “To ensure their expatriates are compensated appropriately and an adequate hardship allowance is included in their benefits package, companies seek a clear picture of the quality of living in these cities.”

Parakatil points out that “although ‘quality of life’ is a broadly used term, it should not be confused with what Mercer refers to as Quality of Living.” He says, “Quality of life may involve a subjective assessment or opinion, whereas Mercer’s criteria are objective, neutral and unbiased. Quality of life is about a person’s emotional state and personal life. One may live in the highest ranked city in terms of quality of living and still have a very bad quality of life because of unfortunate personal circumstances (illness, unemployment or loneliness, etc).”

I wonder if Helen Thomas would say America has the world’s highest standard of living. As the child of two immigrants from Tripoli, Lebanon, growing up among nine brothers and sisters in Detroit, she received a degree in English from Wayne State University in 1942, and went on to enjoy a lucrative career and the esteem of her colleagues. Thomas realized a great life in America, despite possessing what some might call handicaps, especially being a woman with a particularly caustic attitude. Some lament her departure now as sad. Maybe she was just taken off-guard when she said “the Jews should get the hell out of Palestine.” Probably not, since this was not her first anti-Semitic comment.

I’m standing by my belief that America enjoys the highest standard of living and quality of life in the world. I’ve added to my criteria a tolerance for bigots like Helen Thomas. (According to www.reference.com, a bigot is a person who is intolerant of opinions, lifestyles, or identities differing from their own; a person who is obstinately devoted to prejudices even when these views are challenged or proven to be false or not universally applicable or acceptable.) 

There are few places in the world where a person can breathe clean air, get a free education, receive the best health care science has to offer, frolic free of charge on millions of publicly held acres, and openly disdain an entire culture and religion without fear of being killed or even flogged.

It’s because of our unique form of government that individuals can have all those benefits, including the protection of speech, even when it’s hateful. A piece of Jewish American history makes the point well.

On Aug. 17, 1790, Moses Seixas, the warden of the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, R.I., wrote a welcoming invitation to George Washington. Seixas expressed the pleasure of his congregation that “the God of Israel, who had protected King David, had also protected General Washington.” … While the rest of world Jewry lived under the rule of monarchs, potentates and despots, as American citizens the members of the congregation were part of a great experiment: a government “erected by the Majesty of the People,” to which they could look to ensure their “invaluable rights as free citizens.”

Seixas famously went on to write that “a Government which to bigotry gives no sanction, to persecution no assistance—but generously affording to all liberty of conscience, and immunities of citizenship: deeming every one, of whatever nation, tongue or language equal parts of the great Governmental Machine …”

Washington wrote back, saying: “May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants; while every one shall sit under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

Washington closed with an invocation: “May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.”

Photo from commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Helen_Thomas_…

Technical and creative writer, Carla G. Harper follows current events with one eye on history and one eye on the future.  Her goal is to encourage people to think critically about what’s going on, both around them and in their lives. Follow Carla at Twitter: CarlaGHarper

*On May 27, 2010, outside the Jewish Heritage Celebration Day event at the White House, the following exchange took place between Thomas and Rabbi David Nesenoff:

Nesenoff: Any comments on Israel? We’re asking everybody today, any comments on Israel?

Thomas: Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine. (laughs)

Nesenoff: Oooh. Any better comments on Israel?

Thomas: (still laughing) Remember, these people are occupied and it’s their land. It’s not German, it’s not Poland …

Nesenoff: So where should they go, what should they do?

Thomas: They go home.

Nesenoff: Where’s the home?

Thomas: Poland. Germany.

Nesenoff: So you’re saying the Jews go back to Poland and Germany?

Thomas: And America and everywhere else. Why push people out of there who have lived there for centuries? See?

Nesenoff: Well, yeah, are you familiar with the, the history of that region and what took place?

Thomas: Very much. I’m of Arab background.

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Carla Garrison

Carla writes about current issues and events with an aim toward telling the truth, using the writings of great thinkers, dead and living, as well as common sense.

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