The United States: An Ode to Joseph Heller

“You mean there’s a catch?”

“Sure there’s a catch”, Doc Daneeka replied. “Catch-22. Anyone who wants to get out of combat duty isn’t really crazy.”

There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane, he had to fly them. If he flew them, he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to, he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.

–Joseph Heller, Catch-22

PolicyMic posted an article calling the United States (moreover the Western world) selfish for ignoring the deadly Ebola virus. I take issue with such a hollow accusatory article–an article that not-so-subtly attempts to subtly convey the idea that the entire United States is politically prejudiced against the entire African continent.

But my question is, how can the U.S. play the world’s savior, protector, tyrant and monster all at the same time?

Isn’t there a precedent for respecting the sovereignty of other nations in handling crises within their own borders until they require help, request assistance, or present a clear danger to international security?

I’m sure people in other countries wouldn’t concern themselves with a virus that originated in the U.S. until or unless it came to their country. They would say, well, it’s their problem, hopefully it doesn’t travel. Would they close their airports to us?

Admittedly the United States is a first-world country, so it should handle its own issues. But at what point can you condemn an entire country for not getting involved in the affairs of other states? Because the last several times the United States intervened, the world sighed in unified disgust.

It’s a double standard that the U.S. is supposed to simultaneously fix every problem in the world, but also hold all the blame for wrongly involving themselves in the affairs of other countries.

You want U.S. funding, U.S. humanitarian workers, U.S. protection, but you don’t want U.S. military, U.S. rules, or U.S. political involvement. It doesn’t work that way.

The United States can’t write blank checks to the bank of international crises without assurance that the crises will be resolved. You want aid, you get involvement. That is a worldwide phenomenon; nothing in life comes without conditions.

A few weeks ago I walked by the White House and saw protesters, furious that the United States isn’t sending people over to deal with Ebola, ISIL, and number of other issues. But some of those same people protested before to end U.S. involvement in international conflicts. The way I see it, you can’t have it both ways unless you are a hypocrite.

Damned if you do; damned if you don’t.

If you get involved, you’re a monster. If you don’t, you’re a monster.

Like Heller said, if you don’t want to fly you have to call yourself insane. If you don’t want to call yourself insane then you have to fly. But maybe no matter what, you were really insane all along.

The United States is a Catch-22.

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