United States of Arrogance.

I started high school as the girl who would always defend the US. “It’s unfair to label an entire country as stupid based on the actions of George W. Bush”; “not everyone in America is an uneducated hick, some of them even know where New Zealand is!”, statements I do still stand by – but now, I see fewer reasons to defend the US. The arrogance of many of its citizens is truly embarrassing.

Something you’ll find many Americans shouting out is “America! Greatest country in the world!” … Really? What evidence is there of this? The Human Development Index? Sure, you rank 4th, behind Norway, Australia and New Zealand. What about the inequality-adjusted HDI? There, you rank 12th. So, perhaps not the HDI. Perhaps your lawmakers are paving the way, making progress and setting an example? Hm. Your healthcare laws are only just now beginning to catch up to laws made by most other developed countries decades ago; your abortion laws are going so far as trying to criminalise abortion, something most developed countries chucked out, again, decades ago; your far-right nutjobs enjoy holding your Congress hostage and making loony demands. Of course, Australia has Fred Nile et al, but their influence, compared to the Tea Party’s, is limited. Then again, I’m sure most sensible Americans will agree with me that the Tea Party are not representative of the entire right wing of politics, let alone the entire nation. I’m simply mentioning them because their actions earlier this week could have led directly to a dire global economic situation again. Really great.

This rhetoric is present even in the speeches of well-meaning, left-leaning celebrities, such as Matt Damon: “This is the greatest country in the world; is it really that much worse if you pay 6% more in taxes? Give me a break. Look at what you get for it: you get to be American.” I mean really, what? Overly-patriotic rhetoric coming from any nationality makes me ill. This idea of America being number one is reminiscent of freaking colonialism – we’re number one (like Britain), so we’re going to exert power over smaller nations and use up their resources and terrorise the locals (India) or send our unwanted criminals there to drive out the native peoples (Australia, many other island nations…)

America’s reputation in the last 100 years hasn’t been so hot. Japanese Internment, the atomic bombs, Cold War, Korean War, horrible treatment of African-American citizens, Vietnam War which led to Pol Pot committing genocide in Cambodia, all the invasions of the Middle East, terrible presidents, etc. Ergo, I can’t find much historical justification for this notion of America still reigning supreme. I really think the time has come for America to step down from this pedestal it has placed itself on – you aren’t ideologically or politically superior to many countries now, guys. Check out Scandinavia. They’re on the ball. I don’t hear Norway constantly harping about how it’s ‘the best, stuff the rest’? And they have many more reasons to have such an attitude.

I’m not saying there is one greatest country – quite the opposite, I simply do not think there is one ‘greatest’ country. I think that this rhetoric, even if said by well-meaning people defending increased taxes, or said in jest, is dangerous, and reminiscent of decades past, when we had the First World, Second World and Third World. I think this sort of arrogance is pretty juvenile, and for a country as old as America, that’s a shame.

I pick on America because I simply don’t hear this sort of rhetoric in such volumes from anyone besides Americans. Face it, America – there are few countries who still find your actions admirable, and few who look up to you in any way. Unfortunately, Australia has taken to being your lapdog – hopefully we can grow out of that soon, though I’m not holding my breath. I doubt most of Europe look up to you, when there isn’t much you’re progressing further than them in; I doubt the Middle East much respect you, considering you seemingly enjoy occupying their lands and involving yourself in their territorial disputes for your own interests.

So, in conclusion, I think that from now on, you won’t find me defending America as much as I used to. Why should I? In the eyes of many Americans, I, as an Australian, am almost second-class. I have American friends, who are great, and there are certain American cities I still love dearly – New York being the main one. It’s quite contradictory, because while I’m developing this attitude, my love for New York is virtually undying – so who knows, maybe I will move there one day? Hopefully I can avoid patriots and overzealous Christians and Tea Party members, though.

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4 Comments

Filed under Global, Politics, Thoughts

4 responses to “United States of Arrogance.

  1. You’re looking at statistics for greatness, which is the wrong thing to look at. If America is great it is because of the ideas it represents. I can think of only four countries in history that are emblematic of an idea: Athens and the idea of democracy, the Roman Republic and it’s idea that one should not live under a tyrant, Britain and the idea of British Common Law that puts the law above everyone, and America in the idea that life and liberty are necessary for the ends of life, the pursuit of happiness. All of these nations fell short of their ideals in practice, but the ideals survived even the lowest point these nations history and the rightness of these ideas outlived the first two examples. Yes America is right now in a moment in history when it lives up to almost none of its ideals, that doesn’t negate the truth and rightness of the ideal which the country represents. And while many nations in the last two hundred years have been founded on noble ideas, America is one of the few that didn’t quickly devolve into tyranny, genocide, or anarchy.

    Or you could think of it this way. “Truth, Justice, and the American way” may be a trite line from a comic book, but the fact that the line has entered the popular culture of numerous countries of a variety of language suggest that the idea of America is what people think about. But everyone, even people who didn’t live in America kind of understood what the statement meant and didn’t see the first two ideas out of place with the third idea. The country is an emblem for these ideas of liberty, republican democracy, rule of law, the self-made man, and a dozen other ideas which different people would emphasize different parts, but the broad strokes exists in our collective consciousness as something good. Does “Truth, Justice and the French Way”, “Truth, Justice and the German way” “Truth Justice and the Polish way” make sense? Not really.

    I won’t disagree with you right now that America does not match up to a lot of other countries in terms of numbers right now…but it still represents an idea that is superior to most and should be embraced.

    • A quick look at your blog indicates you are both American and conservative, so we’re never going to agree.

      I have to disagree with you that America has a monopoly on the concept of “truth and justice”. And all of those things you’ve mentioned – liberty, democracy, the rule of law – I don’t immediately think of America when I hear them. Liberty? I think “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” (I will acknowledge that the American Revolution did indeed come first – but to ride on the coattails of what they did hundreds of years ago is preposterous); democracy, I think of Greece; the rule of law, I think of the English developed common law system. I do not associate these basic ideas of western society with only America, as that is a very American-focused view to have, and as a non-American, a view I do not possess.

      Final note: one could also argue that the treatment of your Native American citizens is comparable to genocide, so I wouldn’t be so quick to place yourself above others on that level.

  2. teenstalk2teens

    I just feel really bad that fundamentalists and Tea-Partiers are defining my country. I can’t defend them at all because frankly, there is no defense. Except that they are a minority in America, we’re definitely not all like that. I think the great thing about America is that somehow, it still manages to be a beacon of hope and of a better life. I’m sure other countries would actually provide a better life, but America’s diversity still gives us an image of opportunity for all. If only the descendants of immigrants weren’t so racist toward the new immigrants…

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