Four years ago, my teacher recommended the HBO show "The Newsroom" to me. As with most show recommendations, it took nearly months for me to follow through and actually watch the show. However, when I finally caved, the opening scene changed my life forever.
I grew up, as all do, with a love for America that was instilled in me from day one."America the Beautiful" and "The Star Spangled Banner," along with the mass media and our history classes, teach kids that America is the greatest country on Earth. We have freedom and we have democracy, what else could we need?
Well, according to Jeff Daniels' character, Will McAvoy, we could use a lot. He argues that there is actually no evidence to support our nationalistic claim to greatness. While there is little question that America is the strongest nation in the world, does that actually mean that we are the greatest?'
McAvoy points out a number of stats about the United States that seem reasonably factual: seventh in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality rate, third in median house income, fourth in labor force, fourth in exports.
According to him, the only categories led by the United States were number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real and defense spending, where the U.S. spends more than the next 26 countries combined (25 of whom are allies).
After watching this, I was in shock. So many of us are led to blindly believe that America is the greatest, but few are educated enough to truly understand. The attack is not targeted at American nationalism, but simply the ignorance that leads to blind nationalism. Nationalism means so much more if one is informed. It is just as important to know where your country is lacking as it is to know where your country is great.
Now, in a time of "Make America great again," I set out to examine whether or not we have improved since this scene in 2012 and to see if America has made any strides towards being the greatest country in the world.
An updated list of America's rankings, based on my research:
|CATEGORY||2012 RANK||2016 RANK||SOURCE|
|Life Expectancy||49||43||CIA Factbook|
|Infant Mortality||178||163||CIA Factbook|
|Median House Income||3||6||Gallup|
|Labor Force||4||4||CIA Factbook|
|Incarcerated Cit. per Capita||1||1 or 2||See Article|
|Adults Believing in Angels||1||??||??|
|Defense Spending||1(More than next 26 combined)||1(More than next 7 combined)||PGPF|
According to this list, America has improved only in life expectancy, exports and science, with no significant improvements. Infant mortality rates and median household income have actually gotten worse, as the U.S. now has the 44th lowest infant mortality rate and an even lower median income. One of our only number one stats, number of incarcerated citizens per capita, was a large toss-up between first and second according to my research, as Seychelles could have possibly passed us – not exactly a huge improvement.
This is all proof that American nationalism is only permissible if one is informed. It is always beneficial to have pride in one's country, but it is detrimental to ignore countries in which we can improve. These stats are even more important in an election year, as it is time to take into account the shortcomings of our great nation and get out and vote for the candidate that will bring America closer to greatness. While I do not believe that this potential lies with Donald Trump, his slogan does have the right idea.
So, please, if you skipped all of the confusing charts and stats and are reading this, inform yourself, so you can get out and make your vote count in November. America is great, and it can easily be the greatest country in the world, but is it yet? The stats don't support that claim. It is up to us, the generation many say is doomed to fail, to bring America back to the greatness we once had.