In all the coverage of the 20th anniversary of 9/11, little attention has been paid to the reality of the United States, its laws (or lack of) and by extension, its norms, the customs it likes, and wants to uphold.
Here are five indicators of what the US is, or more crucially, isn’t. From baby walkers to light bulbs, they tell a story:
**The US is no Sierra Leone
One of the world’s poorest countries, Sierra Leone abolished the death penalty in July. The death penalty is authorized by 27 of America’s 50 states as well as the federal government.
** The US is no Sweden
Sweden banned corporal punishment in school many decades ago but it’s still allowed in 19 US states.
** The US is no Canada
It’s been 17 years since Canada banned baby walkers, those wheeled devices children use to push themselves around before they can walk. Paediatricians in the US have long asked for the same to happen — with an estimated 2,000 children per year being treated in emergency rooms across the US for walker-related injuries. But baby walkers remain legal in the US.
** The US isn’t Cuba…or Argentina…or an EU member state
Cuba was the first country in the world to ban the sale and import of energy-inefficient light bulbs in 2005. Argentina followed in its footsteps in 2010 and the European Union did so in 2012. The US was due to have enforced its prohibition on the sale of incandescent bulbs at the beginning of 2020 but the Trump administration scrapped the rule.
Joe Biden’s Department of Energy is set to look again at lightbulb regulations this month in order to increase energy efficiency.
** The US is no Bangladesh (or France, Tanzania, Tunisia, Mexico City and more)
In 2002, Bangladesh became the first country to ban plastic bags. It became a trend, a key indicator of how countries were responding to environmental concerns. In 2007, San Francisco city did so; in 2013, Los Angeles; in 2015, the entire state of California started to enforce a new law to that effect. Eight states—California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon and Vermont—have banned single-use plastic bags. But there is no national plastic bag fee or ban currently in effect in the United States. In fact, some states, such as Florida and Arizona, have passed laws preventing a ban.