The Truth About The U.S.
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Politics and Activism

The Truth About The U.S.

We must face adversity head on, not pretend it doesn’t exist.

The Truth About The U.S.
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As a prerequisite to the rest of this article, I would like to let all my readers know that I am proud to be an American citizen and I am aware that the life I hold here in the United States is incredibly privileged. I am blessed. Though the above statement is true, if someone asked me, “Can you say why America is the greatest country in the world?” I would ask them if they were alive and informed during the last election (haha, but seriously.) We are not the greatest country in the world. As said by Will McAvoy of The Newsroom:

There is absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we're the greatest country in the world. We're seventh in literacy, twenty-seventh in math, twenty-second in science, forty-ninth in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, number four in labor force, and number four in exports. We lead the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending, where we spend more than the next twenty-six countries combined, twenty-five of whom are allies.

First of all, in regard to the clip from which this prompt was pulled, if we were the greatest country in the world I tend to believe that we would not cancel a show revolved around such strong intelligence, humor, and recognition of world issues. Maybe that opinion is a little too bias. Any who, I digress, America is not the greatest country in the world. The idea that it is the best country has the immediate result of creating American Exceptionalism, an idea that historically has been referred to as a set of beliefs insinuating superiority. According to the New World Encyclopedia, American Exceptionalism can be defined as,

“… the belief that the United States differs qualitatively from other developed nations because of its national credo, historical evolution, or distinctive political and religious institutions. The difference is often expressed in American circles as some categorical superiority, to which is usually attached some alleged proof, rationalization or explanation that may vary greatly depending on the historical period and the political context.”

As described above, this is an American ideal spread amongst American people that affects more than just American lives. In this paper, I am going to argue the dangers of American exceptionalism along with the correlated understanding that the United States is only self-defined as the best country in the world. That said, just like my opinion on The Newsroom, bias is far too heavily intermingled into Americanized ideals for many to have the courage to look into our country from an outlying perspective.

We claim that we are free but reject the idea of libertarianism, we claim to be financially stable while we are 20.1 TRILLION dollars in debt, we claim to be the land of opportunity when “a 2005 study showed that children born into poverty in Europe and Canada were more likely to find prosperity than children born into poverty in the United States.” (Wessel), and we claim to be so socially accepting when we just voted an outwardly sexist, racist, pervert into office. (Oh whoops my bias may have slipped out a bit there) America is so used to being the best that we cannot even recognize when we begin to slip from the success we once held. Almost half of our eligible voters did not even hit the polls this year. ALMOST HALF. To me, that screams that half of our eligible voting population is uninformed and waiting for the rest of the country to make decisions on their behalf. Is that representative of “the best country in the world?”, I would not say so.

There is truly no such thing as the best country in the world. What would that country even look like? Money seems to drive existence in society. Is the best country in the world the richest country in the world? That seems rather rash. Is the best country in the world the happiest country in the world? Well, with a divorce rate of nearly 53% and 15 million American adults struggling with depression I do not exactly think we win that category either. Is the best country in the world the most advanced culture? Well, we really have no way of saying who is the most advanced due to high levels of discrepancy on what “advanced” really means. So, what does the word ‘best’ truly mean? Does anyone really have that answer?

Honestly, with all that said, it seems as though to state that America is the best, we would have to all have a mutual definition of what makes something the ‘best’. There is no concrete list of guidelines a country must meet in order to be considered the best. Similar to the fact that we cannot compare ‘bests’ of things that are so different. For instance, the best color to me is blue and the best sociology teacher I have had was Ms. Snediker. I did not think Ms. Snediker was the best because of the ways she could be aesthetically pleasing next to any other color and I do not think the color blue is the best because of the way it makes me think more deeply about humans and how we interact. Likewise, of my peers who also thought Ms. Snediker was the best, did they think this for the same reason I did? Probably not. There is no one mutual definition and to get the entire world population of roughly 7.4 billion (do note that number is lower than the U.S. debt in dollars) to agree on what defines a country as the ‘best’ is highly unlikely. We cannot make blanket statements such as ‘we are the best country’ because we would be appointing ourselves the responsibility to say what bad factors are outweighed by what good factors and vice versa. This is not a math problem. There is no definite answer.

It is not a fact that any one country is the best country in the world. It is an opinion held by those who state it and it can be defended by the views of which they hold. These views have expanded from ideals that were instilled in them at a very young age and these views flourish into opinions that, sometimes, create blanket statements where any further argument could seem unheard of. Opinions are all created from what we think we know and that results in a skewed outcome of different opinions.

While in years past recognizing that we are not the best country in the world may have seemed very hard, now at the state we are in today it is not a difficult conclusion. Our nation is divided. You see this exemplified in everyday life. Our parties have stopped accepting one another. RED FLAG this is something we have seen before. (Hello, Civil War?) Democracy as a whole seems as though it is on its head. I would hope more than anything that the best country in the world would not have that problem. I would hope that the best country in the world could politely disagree without twitter firebacks and blanket animosity over large groups of people.

Our country never has been the best country in the world simply because no country has ever been the best country in the world. (Though some would argue that the U.S. from 1946-1950 got just about as close as it gets) The problem more than ever is that people who used to believe America had all the qualities of what they define as “the best” now do not. The United States of America certainly has a better ring to it than The Divided States of America, yet this is where we stand; divided.

Personally, I believe the best way to advance oneself and their country is through learning from mistakes. When we stop recognizing that there are mistakes and that there are flaws, we stop progressing. As said by Will McAvoy in The Newsroom

We stood up for what was right. We fought for moral reasons, we passed laws, struck down laws for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors, we put our money where our mouths were, and we never beat our chest. We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and we cultivated the world's greatest artists and the world's greatest economy. We reached for the stars, acted like men. We aspired to intelligence; we didn't belittle it; it didn't make us feel inferior. We didn't identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election, and we didn't scare so easy. We were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed. By great men, men who were revered. The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one.

If we realistically believe that we are the best country in the world we will be stagnant because we are refusing to learn from mistakes and from flaws. If we do not see that there is a problem then as a whole our country will falter, and be far from the ‘best’. In history class, all throughout child hood, we learn about the trials and tribulations of many nations, including our own. These people in the history books were fighting to be free, they weren’t worried about being the best. If they thought we were the best then they would see no reason or room to improve. If that was the case, our history books would be exponentially less thick.

Overall, it is important to note that every country has potential. It is also important to note that no one country can be the best without a consensus on what 'best' really means. The United States of America is not the best country in the world and we will falter even further if too many believe that we are. We must face adversity head on, not pretend it doesn’t exist. If we do this, we will climb the ladder to be a better country. At the end of the day we can only strive for better.

Works Cited

David Wessel, As rich-poor gap widens in US, class mobility stalls, The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved October 19, 2008.

Sorkin, Aaron. "S1 E1: We Just Decided To." The Newsroom. Dir. Greg Mottola. HBO. 24 June 2012. Television.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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