There is a clip from Aaron Sorkin’s new series The Newsroom that is going viral. Here’s a link, but please know that not safe for work due to language.
Not having seen the show I don’t know who the character’s are, but in the set up a college aged girl asks a panel of three people what makes America the greatest country on Earth. One panelist answers “diversity and opportunity”, a second answers “freedom, freedom, and freedom”, and a third, played by Jeff Daniels, goes into a mini-rant that begins with “we’re not”. He backs his statement by saying that most First World (and many non First World) countries have as much freedom, that America trails other nations educationally and financially, that we lead the world in the percent/number of incarcerated people, etc…
I can’t say I’m proud to be an American since I had very little to do with it, but I can definitely say I’m glad to be one, that I was born here instead of in Mexico or the Soviet Union (I know, but it was still alive and kicking when I was born) or any of many places that are a lot more violent and a lot less fed. That said, America is simply not what it once was even in my lifetime; the sense of entitlement is nauseating, and I’m not talking about welfare/food stamps entitlement but the “we can have it all and as much as we want and it’s our right!” sense that led us to a fourteen-figure national debt, the Internet seems to have given steroids to ignorance rather than fixed it, and any politician who says “We have got to cut spending and raise taxes to fix this” is not going to get re/elected because fiscal responsibility simply does not exist in either party. And while there has always been a ridiculous degree of chauvinism in the American DNA (I can’t say how it compares to most other nations because I don’t know and haven’t researched the matter) it is now out of control: the words treason and UnAmerican are now just openers to “debate” that is really just masturbatory namecalling, and while this has always existed the Internet and cable have taken it from the occasional argument at the dinner table or the hardware store to a 24/7 and 360 degree screaming match that is not only unavoidable but completely unproductive.
More than anything I think that our belief in our own automatic supremacy, which leads to a belief that the U.S.A. cannot fail and cannot do any wrong that it cannot fix, along with the belief that there are easy and painless answers to complex problems, really is destroying the nation, and while I doubt we’ll be Pakistan any time soon I think that a new reality where nobody remotely reasonable can deny America is no longer the greatest nation is absolutely possible.
But I am neither an economist nor a political scientist and know just enought about both to make my ignorance apparent, and I have never lived overseas, so I would like to hear what others think. Is the U.S.A. the greatest nation in the world, and why or why not?