Not The Greatest Country In the World (not at all)

Some version or other of this post has been a draft within my blog for a long, long time. I would come back to it now and again, but I never really knew where to start, or how to finish. I’ve wanted to say some things to my country, my countrymen(women) for a while but I didn’t want to offend anyone (I might be American, but I’m also from the Midwest so it’s conflicting). And I don’t want to argue. Ok, sometimes I do want to argue, but not about this.

But finally I couldn’t ignore this draft anymore, and frankly it is the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and all the drama that has followed that led me to take to the keyboard at last to finish what I’ve started and re-started.

I’m only going to say ONE thing about the ACA. Ok ok ok, if you know me personally, you know that this is absolutely NOT the only thing I am going to say. About the ACA or anything. But if you only know me through my blog or are a friend or family member who either a) very purposefully avoids these conversations with me in real life or b) has hidden me from your Facebook feed, this is all you will have to endure. Skip the following paragraph if you care to.

While we can all go back and forth like MSNBC vs. Fox News about whether Obamacare will save us or light the whole country on fire, that argument is basically futile because it is going to do neither. It is certainly, in my opinion, going to be helpful to those people who were previously denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions, could be life changing for those who live in states that performed the correlated Medicaid expansion, and is going to matter quite a lot to those who had previously hit their coverage limits and subsequently had to choose between financial ruin and their health. But at the end of the day, this is not going to do enough. Not by a long shot. In the name of full disclosure I will say the least shocking thing you have ever heard and tell you that my personal preference would be for a single payer system. I believe in a communal attitude towards health, I believe that a system that allows insurance companies to set rates and lobbyists to buy votes serves no one, I believe that when anecdotes are put aside the bottom line is that the more people who have access to both preventive and acute care the better off a society is…economically, socially, ethically. And if American culture can never make the leap to accepting single payer, I’ll happily pay privately for services that make sense to companies that are accountable to health. But, alas, that is not what we have now. What we have now, and even what we have if you consider the improvements that ACA made for the above-mentioned groups, is utter shit and we should be ashamed and embarrassed and working (despite party affiliation) to amend our entire mindset towards health and our healthcare system. THERE. That’s all. Which leads me to the my point.

America is not the greatest.

Did you hear me? I said it. I say it a lot. I say it in reply to anyone who ever professes our undeniable superiority. And after I went to check, it turns out saying it did not cause my passport to spontaneously combust. We’re not the greatest at pretty much anything, unless you count the art of convincing ourselves we are the greatest. We don’t rank well in education, crime, incarceration rates, infant mortality, maternal health, or tiddlywinks. We have a history of war crimes and incredible political corruption and our banking system could run the whole world into the ground. We don’t travel as much as people from other countries, read as much, know as much about what goes where on a world map. We have lower food safety standards. We have higher income discrepancy, particularly when race is considered, and increasingly worrisome restrictions on the rights of women to their own bodily autonomy compared with countries that we consider our ‘equal.’

And I can hear them now: America hater! Unpatriotic! Go live somewhere else then!

And to them I say: I don’t hate America. I’m not ashamed of being American. And I have chosen to set up my home base there. Unlike some other people (from both sides of the political spectrum) who boast of plans to move to another country based on this electoral outcome or that one (as though OTHER countries don’t have immigration policies, but I digress), I actually could do that if we wanted to. And so far, we haven’t. For a myriad of reasons, none of which are patriotism, but all of which still lead us conclude that the US is a good home for us and our family.

I say America is not the greatest, and in many cases not even that great, because I love it, not because I hate it. I say that because I want it to be better. I say that because most of my family and many of my friends are American and their lives and our homes are wonderful and meaningful and full of good things that can and should be shared. Saying ‘We’re the Greatest’ and questioning the morals of anyone who doesn’t agree does a disservice to the country you profess to love so much. No one is perfect. We, America, are especially not so. And admitting that is an act of courage and a step towards improvement.

I would feel so much better if we could be ok with cognitive dissonance. It’s ok to feel love for your home and pride for your countrymen and also feel shame for governmental actions, policies or procedures. You can admire the spirit of America and the availability of bacon-flavored anything and deplore the way we view healthcare or process immigrants. In fact it’s not just ok, it’s very American of you. To love fiercely and question constantly. To wear an American flag bandana while drinking a Bud and saying to yourself ‘Guantanamo Bay…how about that for a war crime?’

Say it with me now. We’re not the greatest. We’re not the greatest. Feels good, right?

4 thoughts on “Not The Greatest Country In the World (not at all)

  1. I am not American but your second last paragraph can be applied to pretty much any country in the world. I feel very much the same way about my home country and to a lot of people this sounds very unpatriotic. I don’t consider myself a patriot really or even proud to be of certain nationality (I find that notion quite silly actually) but I’ll bet that being aware of what is wrong in your country and not closing your eyes in front of it is more patriotic than going along with it and even bragging about it. Of course, not having lived there in 10 years and with no plans to go back I very much keep my opinions to myself.

  2. Oh Lane, “I would feel so much better if we could be ok with cognitive dissonance.” The first step would be to get 95% of the population to know what cognitive dissonance means. 🙂 Are we the greatest – I don’t know. I think it is like beauty, such that it is in the eye of the beholder. In my travels it is apparent that our arrogance and proclaiming ourselves the greatest pisses a lot of other countries off – and I get told that. 🙂 However, we may not be the greatest and everything may not work like everyone wants, but I think America is the greatest at offering 2 things: Innovation and Opportunity. Those 2 reasons are why people will risk everything to get here. As to health care…. 🙂 …. the problem with getting that fixes is that BOTH political party’s agenda get in the way of finding a workable solution that won’t bankrupt the middle class with taxes.

  3. I believe that you pretty much summed up my feelings on the AFA and the very individualistic society that America is. We promote self, and not universality. This has obvious advantages for some, primarily the rich, but many flaws plague the system as well. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this post. I fear that, as the last commenter said, there is too much political agenda for there ever to be enough consensus to make real changes for the better of all – not to be pessimistic, but our whole system has been structured to keep the poor, poor. I’m sure many will disagree, but that’s how I see it.

  4. I won’t say that we aren’t the greatest because I do love the US so darn much BUT I will say that I completely agree, we have so much room to improve. Right now I feel like we are stagnating our progress as a whole and far too many people blindly believe that we are infallible. We need to be able to look at ourselves constructively.

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