“The Greatest Country in the World”

Last week, HBO launched its new original series, The Newsroom.  While it isn’t exactly Network, the new serial attempts to do for the nightly news what Aaron Sorkin did for sports television (through Sports Night) and politics (through The West Wing).

Of course, the whole things gets going with a monologue of outrage and platform setting.  When asked why the United States is the greatest country on earth, the protagonist (a previously uncontroversial TV anchor always trying to walk the middle), let’s loose on an unsuspecting college student with the following:

Cheryn [the liberal panelist], the NEA is a loser. Yeah, it accounts for a penny out of our paycheck, but he gets to hit you with it anytime he wants. It doesn’t cost money. It costs votes. It costs air time and column inches. You know why people don’t like liberals? Cuz they lose. If liberals are so smart why do they lose so goddamn always? [Addressing conservative] And 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 who have freedom? Canada has freedom. Japan has freedom. The UK, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Australia! Belgium! has freedom. So, 207 sovereign states in the world and 180 of them have freedom. 

And yeah, you, sorority girl. Just in case you ever wander into a voting booth one day, there’s some things you should know and one of them is: there is absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we are the greatest country in the world. We’re 7th in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 179th in infant mortality, 3rd in median household income, 4th in exports. We lead the world in only 3 categories: Number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, a defense spending – where we spend more than the next 26 countries combined, 25 of whom are allies. 

Now, none of this is the fault of a 20 year old college student, but you nonetheless are without a doubt a member of the worst – period – generation – period – ever – period. So when you ask what makes us the greatest country in the world, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Yosemite? 

It sure used to be. We stood up for what was right. We fought for moral reasons. We struck laws – we passed down laws for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty not poor people. We sacrificed. We cared about our neighbors. We put our money were our mouths were and we never beat our chests. We built great big things and made ungodly technological advances and explored the universe, cured disease. And we cultivated the world’s greatest artists and the world’s greatest economy.

We reached for the stars. Acted like men. We aspired to intelligence – we didn’t belittle it, it didn’t make us feel inferior. We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election and, we didn’t scare so easy.

We were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed by great men – men who were revered. 

First step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. America is not the greatest country in the world anymore. Enough? 

And why do I offer this?  Interestingly, even Hollywood seems to determine our greatness, in part, by those student performance measures so many bemoan these days.  

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