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Not the Greatest Now, and Never Have Been

Robin Alexander

Posted on June 21, 2018 09:30

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Americans are obsessed with being the greatest. In 2016 we were asked to make America great again, referring to when we were whiter, more people died from coal mining jobs and the top 1 percent didn’t yet own 40 percent of the country’s wealth. The opposition claimed we were already great. In 1980 another Republican used an almost identical slogan, perhaps referring to the “greatest generation,” known nostalgically for saving the world. (It was the Russians, we helped).

So how great are we? In 2012 Aaron Sorkin launched a TV show called "The Newsroom" with an opening scene that addressed this topic.

A question is posed by a student to a panel of "experts," including news anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels): "Why is America the greatest country in the world?"

After another pundit answers "freedom," McAvoy lets loose:

"It’s not the greatest country in the world. With a straight face you’re going to tell students that America is so star-spangled awesome that we’re the only ones in the world that have freedom? Canada has freedom. Japan has freedom. The UK, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Australia, Belgium has freedom! 207 sovereign states in the world and 180 of them have freedom.

"There is absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we’re the greatest country in the world. We’re seventh in literacy; 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality. … 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 26 countries combined, 25 of whom are allies. … So when you ask what makes us the greatest country in the world, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

I did my own research: The World Atlas April 2018 has us tied for 10th in literacy; a 2013 United Nations Children’s Fund report says we’re second highest in premature delivery and low birth weight among 35 developed nations, but only because of "higher poverty rates and a relatively weak social safety net." Child mortality rates are up as well, but that’s only because of gun deaths. Life expectancy? The World Health Organization says we’re 31st, just behind Costa Rica.

Daniels/McAvoy goes on to say, "We used to stand up for what was right." But I don’t buy that either. I kneel every chance I get, in solidarity with the black community, but also because I won’t support the hypocrisy that our military fights to protect our freedoms, or anyone else’s. They fight to protect corporate interests: the petro-dollar and the seizing of other countries’ natural resources.

That’s what was behind the overthrow of the democratically elected head of Iran in 1953, which led to the Shah and then to the theocracy there today. That’s what was behind the numerous coups and regime changes the CIA engineered over the years. (Orwell called them "unpeople" so — no worries).

This week we reached a new low regarding "unpeople." I say "we" because Trump is a symptom, a pustule appearing on the skin’s surface after years of infection running rampant through the body politic.

To hear the Secretary of Homeland Security declare, "I will look into it," when questioned about missing girls and babies, is unconscionable. What we should hear is "I will find them and I will reunite them all with their families."

I guess our "greatness" can’t even manage that. 

Robin Alexander

Posted on June 21, 2018 09:30

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