On the premiere episode of the HBO series "The Newsroom" Jeff Daniels character goes off on a college student asking a question of the people on the panel about why America is #1 in the world. This is one of those questions that beg for a jingoistic nationalistic response and if you don't give the response that is looked for (that it's awesome because we're all free and whatnot) then you're an America Hater and probably a Socialist.
The thing is though, the only way you can say that we are number one among the world is if you have a severe misunderstanding of the realities of this country and our place in the world. And that's not a "hater" comment, that's just plain common sense.
There's all this talk about how free this country is. We have freedom to do what we want. At least that's what we're told. However I'm not sure of what these freedoms that we allegedly have. And I'm not a conspiracy nut, I don't listen to Alex Jones or Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh or any of those nutjobs. And I'm definitely not a Ron Paul fan either.
However if you really look at the situation that we face you'll realize that our "freedoms" that supposedly incite terrorists to want to attack us, are pretty thin. We don't really have any sense of privacy anymore. Not since 9/11 that's for damn sure, and probably to a smaller degree before then.
We have warrentless wiretaps by the NSA, we have police beating protestors and spraying them in the face with pepper spray for daring to speak up in shows of protest. You have groups in Florida that are jailed for trying to feed the homeless population.
You have police shooting and killing unarmed citizens (mostly minorities), A man was detained by police because he told then Vice-President Dick Cheney that he disagreed with his policies and "touched" the VP, and our current President has indefinitely detained Private Bradley Manning for allegedly blowing the whistle on atrocities committed by our troops. The very same President, mind you, that campaigned by saying that he would defend whistleblowers.
Or maybe that "Freedom" is that anyone can come here and make a new life. Only that's not really true either. Not only do you have these draconian laws proposed and implemented against those who are in this country without documentation, including Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona who allegedly refused to investigate child sexual abuse against Latinos, but you have some that are proposing bans on LEGAL immigration. The motto of this country was always "Bring us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses". Now? It's "Get the hell out, now!" Maybe that's only for a certain shade of immigrant? But I digress.
Then there's the situation with Education. You have politicans trying to rewrite history and take out any mentions of civil rights heroes, and play up the contributions of white people. The famous saying of "Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it" clearly hasn't dawned on the brilliant minds in Texas, as they are trying to whitewash our horrible past and make sure no one can ever read about it. Sure we might have fucked over the Native Americans and enslaved, beat and killed scores of Black people, but hey...the younger generation won't know that! And we remove all traces of Black and other Minority Civil rights leaders. That's thinking there!
Then we can have generations from here on out that will only know the good things that have happened in this country, like how awesome Whitey is. .
Then of course there's our blatant disregard for the rights of LGBT individuals, denying their rights to marry and have the same lives as their heterosexual counterparts. You have laws enforced strictly against them, such as in Texas (where else?) where two men had their house raided after another man angry at them called in a false complaint against them saying "a black man was going crazy with a gun". Ah yes, the old "The Scary Black Man Did It" ruse. Works everytime! The cops get there, find the couple in bed, and arrest them on sodomy laws.
Anyone want to guess whether or not if the house that was raided, revealed a husband and wife engaging in sodomy that the results would have been the same? Yeah, think about that. I'll wait.
The bigots will tell you that marriage has always been between one man and one woman, and that it's a Biblical principle. Unfortunately those people don't appear to have read their Bibles. King David and King Solomon (just to name TWO) were known to have MANY wives. If you're playing "over/under" on the number of wives King Solomon had, be safe and take the over.
In the Bible it was often one man and many women, or one man and his brother's wife, or one man and his slave girl, and the list goes on. Marriage has NEVER just been about one man and one woman. Also they'll tell you that it's all about procreation and how two men or two women cannot naturally have a child, so it's CLEARLY not good in God's eyes.
If that were true, then perhaps we need to anull a bunch of straight people's marriage if there's no children conceived in say...two years? I think that's ample time. If after two years you haven't had a kid, then your marriage should be anulled. Marriage is for procreation. That is what we are told. If the woman can't have children, then that's sad but she's not allowed to ever have sex or get married again. Sex is for procreation, not enjoyment, and not for your perverted desires.
No contraception, no birth control, it's all in God's hands. And if you don't have a kid, then God clearly doesn't want you to have one, and therefore your marriage is pointless.
So this whole idea of this country being the best in the world is ludicrous. Unless that #1 is in areas in which a country is lagging behind the rest of the world, and then we might be good enough for that.
In that scene of The Newsroom, Daniels' character rattles off all the stats showing that we are severely trailing the rest of the world in a number of important categories including life expectancy, literacy levels and the such. And while I acknowledge the numbers appear to be correct that he is citing, I would like to take issue with something he did say after that.
He said this country wasn't the best, but that it USED to be.
I beg to differ. People say this country is the best because they have very little frame of reference. They see extreme examples of censorship in other countries and say "wow, look how great we have it here!" They see people getting their hands chopped off, or women not being able to drive, and say "wow, look at how free we are compared to THAT!"
But that's kind of an unfair comparison. Comparing yourself to the most extreme in order to make the case that we are the best country in the world is a childish venture. It's a limited argument designed to get a singular response, much like the aforementioned "Tell us why America is the greatest country in the world" question.
It's framed in a way that doesn't allow or suggest anything other than what it's asking for.
This country is not great, and it never was. Is it better than some? Clearly. Is it worse than others? Most definitely. This country has always had issues with how we treat people that are not in power or who have insufficient amounts of people speaking for them.
Ask women who were unable to vote until the 19th amendment was ratified in 1920 allowing them to vote about how great this Country was back then. Or how about all those who marched and died so that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would be passed. How blacks and whites couldn't drink from the same water fountain or shop in the same stores, or go to the same restaurants or live in the same towns.
Ask the families of all the black men and women who have been victimized, terrorized and had their lives taken by corrupt police officers who then got off free due to the corrupt "Justice" system about how great this country is for everyone.
Or the families of Troy Davis, Cameron Todd Willingham and the other unknown number of people who have been executed while potentially being innocent of the crimes they were killed for. Or the hundreds of men and women who have been exonerated after serving DECADES in prison for crimes they didn't commit, due to false eyewitness testimony, racist police/judges, planted evidence and coerced lies that put them there. Ask them how great this country has always been.
Ask all the peaceful Muslims in this country who have been terrorized due to assholes in Congress who hold hearings on the alleged Radicalizing of Islam in this country, while ignoring all the right wing extremists out there.
This country has some good things about it, there's no denying that. But to act like this country is the best in the world and there are no flaws is just nationalistic stupidity at it's finest.
And if for no other reason than the fact that there are many in this country that actually THINK this country is the best, that should be reason enough to realize that we're not.