Are we the greatest country in the world?

I want to share with you my thoughts on the current state of our country.

I want to, but I’m afraid I can’t quite put my thoughts into words. However, you buy this newspaper or read us online for a reason, and I feel obligated to try and do so. Just bear with me.

To start, I’ll quote from a monologue in the pilot episode of “The Newsroom,” an HBO political drama that aired from 2012-2014. Jeff Daniels plays the lead character, Will McAvoy, who is the anchor of a fictitious nightly news broadcast.

The episode starts with McAvoy addressing a large crowd in an auditorium. He’s asked by an attendee why he thinks America is the greatest country in the world. His response, “It’s not the greatest country in the world,” creates a media firestorm, and much of the first season revolves around the fallout from those remarks.

Of course, those remarks were written for dramatic effect, and they’re certainly controversial. They were a great hook for the beginning of the TV show. Unfortunately, though, the writers of that outstanding monologue were right.

We’re not the greatest country in the world. We’ve fooled ourselves into thinking we are. We like to portray ourselves as an enlightened people, and we love to pretend that we’re much better than we actually are. That smug sense of superiority has caused us to rot from the inside.

Consider the fact that more than 100,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, and there’s been no national day of mourning. In fact, many of us have decided the virus is just an inconvenience, and we’ve moved on with our lives. Damn the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions; they’ll have to fend for themselves, right? After all, this world is survival of the fittest, and we care only about ourselves.

Of course, that’s only one problem facing our country. Millions of Americans lack basic access to health care due to high prices and lack of insurance. Poverty remains a huge problem even as we add billions more to the coffers of our nation’s richest citizens. Our political system, the two-party republic, is utterly broken, and politicians seem to do nothing but bicker. The president adds fuel to every fire we have, and local leaders (I’m looking at you, Hal Marx) take their cues from him.

We allow hatred to go unchecked, and discrimination occurs for bafflingly stupid reasons such as sexual orientation, gender identity or other factors. Racism still runs rampant, and our minority populations deal with inequalities at every level. Black Americans are dying at much higher rates from COVID-19, and they’re being murdered in the streets by corrupt police officers.

The saddest thing is that many of us refuse to see these harsh realities. We instead see the government asking us to wear masks in public to prevent the spread of a dangerous virus as oppression, and we cry out in protest over it. We’re a selfish people, and that selfishness has been on full display throughout this pandemic.

I don’t know the solution to our country’s problems, but I think the first step in solving them is at least recognizing them. If we’re all truly patriots like we claim to be, we should acknowledge our faults, come together and resolve to fix them. With the current state of our country, I don’t know if that’s possible, but I don’t see another way forward.

I’m gravely concerned about our country’s future, and all I know is that I want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. Will you join me?

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