No one benefits from saying that you’re the best when it’s become painfully clear that you’re really not.
Think about it like the kid running around the schoolyard saying that his baseball team is #1 when all of his classmates just watched them lose to the opposing team. At best, he’s seen as foolish by his own peers, and by the team that actually won, he’s downright delusional. There’s a difference between being proud and being arrogant.
And that’s the problem I have with exceptionalism in America today because at a time when many politicians have deemed it unpatriotic merely to be critical of our country, the result is far too many followers who are more than eager to buy the flag-laden beer cans and shout about America’s unwavering awesomeness from their rooftops without even pausing to consider whether the things that would make us The Greatest Country in the World™ are actually true anymore…
What is it that makes a country great, anyways???
Is it the strength of its economy? (the USA is #2 to China)
Is it the average life expectancy of its citizens? (the USA is #31)
How about the quality of its education system? (where the USA ranks #5)
Or maybe its unemployment rate? Or its poverty rate? Or the overall effectiveness of its healthcare system?
Now to be perfectly clear, just because the United States doesn’t rank #1 in any of these areas doesn’t mean that it’s the worst! In fact, far from it – considering a total of 195 countries around the world today, some of these numbers are actually pretty commendable … albeit some certainly less than others, depending on where your own priorities may fall … but the point is, these are the statistics of a pretty good country, but not The Greatest Country in the World.
And in 2016 with a global ecosystem that’s become more interconnected through technology and transportation, commerce and compassion for one another’s wellbeing than ever before in human history, I don’t necessarily think that’s such a bad place to be.
Mankind is more than just 195 individual countries – we make up a global community of 7 billion people across countless races and religions, cultures and other systems of belief. We’ve learned that no single country is an island anymore and that the things we do affect each other both to the far reaches of the Earth as well as decades into the future in ways that we can’t even predict yet. America isn’t the greatest country in the world anymore because it doesn’t have to be…
Thanks to a joint venture with 15 other countries, Americans have been living in space since the turn of the century – a feat that 50 years prior would’ve seemed laughable at best as the United States and the former Soviet Union raced for supremacy of the skies at the height of the cold war. In fact, for the time being American astronauts rely solely on their Russian counterparts for transportation to and from the International Space Station because the USA doesn’t presently have an active shuttle program.
One of our largest corporations – Apple, Inc. – has dominated the telecommunications industry for nearly the last decade with the advent of the most iconic mobile communications device of our time. To date Apple has sold roughly 900 million iPhones around the world in the name of enriching lives through communication, however as they etch into the back of every last one, while the iPhone was designed and created in Cupertino, California, it’s manufactured in factories throughout China.
Through its history, America has done impressive things on its own from putting a man on the moon to manufacturing the first consumer automobiles to most recently bringing thousands of private and public computers together in creation of the Internet that we all love and use today, but we don’t have to go it alone and that’s all the more reason why we need to be honest about where we stand in the world on various issues if we want to continue to do great things with all of the other nations hand in hand.
Granted, we should always strive to do better because that’s how we push ourselves towards greatness and move forward as a society, but as we try to teach our children about good sportsmanship in general, the best don’t have to brag about being #1 because everybody else already knows.
I think this is where we as Americans have lost some of our footing in the global community recently by becoming known as the nation that beats its chest despite coming in second or third, or 31st. There’s plenty for us to learn from the countries around us, whether it’s improving our education system like Australia or considering healthcare policies that seem to be working better for the 30 other countries ahead of the USA in the World Health Organization’s rankings. We live in a world where working examples surround us to provide the ideas and inspiration to help improve our own country here at home … we just need to be humble enough to consider them.
There’s nothing wrong with the United States aspiring to be The Greatest Country in the World … it’s just foolish for us to continue walking around the schoolyard acting like we’re #1 when there are so many other ways that we could be working towards doing better.