Voting Day: Is America Really #1?

So today is the day Americans choose their president!  I’m going to try to write as politically neutral post as possible, but I wanted to address something I’ve been seeing on my newsfeed all afternoon.  There are certain times of year when patriotism suddenly peaks: the 4th of July, Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, etc. aaaaaand election day.

Most people who know me know that I am not a particularly patriotic person, so in general I try to ignore these surges in American pride, but there are two things that really get me.  “America is the greatest country on earth.”  and “We’re #1!”

First of all, who decided that America is the greatest country on earth?  Oh yeah, Americans.  You know, if anyone ever names themselves the “greatest” anything, it probably means that a) they’re not the greatest and b) they’re really arrogant.  Now, I wouldn’t call myself “worldly” by any means, but within my limited experiences outside of America, I’ve seen other countries, and their citizens, doing things so much better than the states does them, from tax and healthcare systems to how safe one feels walking the streets (or you know, leaving their baby out on the street) to their very ideas about patriotism.

In Denmark, you see the Danish flag everywhere, but not in the same way as you see American flags.  An American flag most often signifies pride in their country, and goes back to that “we’re #1” feeling that almost always accompanies American patriotism. Danish patriotism is, I guess, a bit softer.  Danish flags are used for celebrations that don’t really have anything to do with patriotism at all.  They’re used to decorate birthday cakes, and during any and all parties (New Years, Christmas, etc.) They think Denmark is great, but they don’t take it so far as to say they are the best, no questions asked.

I guess what I’m saying is that I think it’s dangerous (yup, dangerous) to believe that you’re the best.  If you’re the best, where can you go from there?  You can’t be the bester.  Saying that America is the number one country on earth is like saying they do everything better than everyone else, and I think this is partly why people over here in Europe tend to roll their eyes at us.  How is America going to get out of the dunghole it’s gotten itself into if they still think they’re the bee’s knees?  How is denying that we have problems going to help us solve them?

The United States of America is great, and they do a lot of things well.  You get free drink refills and candy doesn’t cost as much as a car (and your car doesn’t cost as much as a house), but the US has a lot of work to do before it can even try to proclaim itself as the best country in the world, and it could start by working on humility.

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3 thoughts on “Voting Day: Is America Really #1?

  1. While I agree with you partially– I can’t stand the noxious patriotism and blatant “best country in the history of the earth” mentality because it makes me sick, WOW, Zeta. This post does not do any of it any credit, and absolutely none to you either.

    Your post blatantly ignores the overwhelming majority who DO NOT act like that or identify with that “crazy patriot” and who instead passionately work to make both the U.S. and other countries a better place. It ignores the effort of U.S. politicians who proclaim the same, now and in the past.

    And given you grew up here, and could use your experience to be an example of a U.S. citizen who belongs to the saner portion– the portion that does not get the same media attention the crazy patriot gets–you do it no greater credit by making blanket statements and gross generalizations that perpetuate the idea. And I know you’re smarter, kinder, and more generous than that 🙂

    I love my country, and a great part of that love lies in working to make it a better place. I do NOT think it’s the best country in the world, because it isn’t, no country is, and we do have a lot of work to do. But posts like this by someone like you are just as damaging and sickening as the crazy patriot.

    • You have a good point. I don’t often do a good job of separating the media America from “real” America, and it isn’t right to make blanket statements. But, it’s frustrating for me to see the political news and the end of every speech from both candidates is something about making sure America remains the greatest country in the world, and wonder how progress can be made if they reinforce that propaganda. I feel like the ego overshadows a lot of serious problems, and that’s scary to me. I know that not all Americans are like that, but it’s hard to talk about this problem without using the term.

  2. Sure, but that’s still kind of an oversimplification of the issue, and it ignores other issues at play over why American political speeches are the way they (very often, not always) are. It ignores the actions that matter more than the posturing, the history that truly does impact what’s happening now. It ignores the fact of the huge variation and shift in ideas and themes between older and younger generations.

    Ego does overshadow A LOT of problems, the world over. And it’s hard to address it all in one little blog post or our back and forth in the comments, especially as two not-experts. But I do think that even if they aren’t covered fully, the reasons and truth behind the media stereotypes should always be recognized as much as possible, and oversimplification avoided at all costs. Using the term is fine, but there’s a responsibility to paint a clear picture if you’re able to give it.

    On a not-really-but-kind-of-related note, have you read Quiet by Susan Cain? It’s about introversion and extroversion, and it’s very good.

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