I can’t recall a time when the United States of America has been more criticized and demonized, both by it’s own citizens and those living in other nations. The list includes but is not limited to: Our President, the war in Iraq, US foreign policy, FEMA’s handling of the Katrina disaster, our CO2 emissions, materialism, excessive health care costs, support of Israel, racial profiling at airports, and the prison at Guantanimo Bay. Listening to Hollywood actors and the “drive by” media would make one think that the United States is the worst country in the world. Pardon me, my friends, but I’ll have none of this!
I was at an economics conference about ten years ago when an economist from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas presented a paper on the tremendous rise in the standard of living of the average American over the past 100 years. As part of his concluding comments he said, “The United States is the greatest country in the world.” The audience was given time to ask him questions. An economics professor (originally from Iran) said to the economist from Dallas, “Sir, you may conclude that Americans have the highest material standard of living, but I disagree with you that the United States is the greatest country in the world. After all, there are many aspects aside from material things that make a country great.” In response, the professor from Dallas was unapologetic about his conclusion. He responded to the questioner, saying: I conclude that the United States is the greatest country in the world because the statistics show that year after year, of all of the countries in the world, the United States is the first choice of immigrants.” The man sat down. The audience was silent. The professor from Dallas had made his point.
Whether motivated by self-hate, envy, or stupidity, it is always fun to kick the “big dog.” Wal-Mart is the most criticized retailer. Microsoft draws heat as the most criticized software company. Except for people who live in New York, almost everyone wants to see the Yankees lose. The United States is in the same category. If one values material wealth, political freedom, economic freedom, religious freedom, and equality of opportunity, the United States stands alone as the best country in the world. The United States is rich, it’s powerful, its people are successful and everyone knows it. As such, the United States is the most criticized country in the world.
During a recent trip to India a friend of mine, a young man in his early twenties, pulled me aside to ask me a question. He is an educated man, working on his MBA. He’s a loving and decent fellow. He pulled me aside so no one could hear him and said, “Hey, I’ve got to ask you a question. My friends and I talk about world affairs all the time, and there is something I really need to know. Tell me the truth. Can George Bush and the American Government cause hurricanes and earthquakes to occur any time they want, anywhere on the earth?” This was not a joke. The man actually thought it was in the realm of possibility that the United States of America could control the world’s weather! As Americans we sometimes underestimate the power and authority that the world’s citizens ascribe to us.
In the mind of the majority of the planet’s citizens, the United States is the cause of most of the world’s problems. Because of the United States Muslim factions hate each other in Iraq. Despite the fact that these religions zealots have been fighting for centuries, I’ve heard people say that when we leave Iraq any bloodshed that occurs “falls squarely on the shoulders of the United States for messing things up.” I guess we’re the reason Palestinians and Lebanese are fighting each other in the streets. If there is a poor country anywhere in the world with a dictator and broken down economy, it’s our fault. We’re the main reason the world is polluted and we don’t even give a damn. Kids work in sweatshops because Americans buy the tennis shoes they make. People starve because they’ve gone away from natural seeds and purchase genetically altered seeds from large American corporations. I could go on and on, for days and days. Heck, we also cause earthquakes. I didn’t know that one before my last trip to India.
It is my firm belief that The United States of America has been a source of incredible good in this world since it’s inception. We have made mistakes in the past and will make them in the future, but on balance we have done far more good in this world than we have done bad. In a bloody Civil War we sorted out for ourselves issues of race and human rights. More Americans died in the Civil War than any military action in our nation’s history, but we ended slavery for good. The French, who love to criticize us, would be speaking German under Nazi rule today if young American men and women had not sacrificed their lives on the battlefields of Normandy. Likewise, the Japanese and most nations in Western Europe depended upon us to prop up their economies after World War II. South Koreans are indebted to us for their freedom, yet they give aid and comfort to the tyrant Kim Jung Il in North Korea. Even citizens of Kuwait owe their freedom to Americans soldiers who traveled half way around the world to kick out a foreign invader while their nearby Arabic brothers sat on their hands.
For my readers who judge this blog as a patriotic diatribe, let me conclude by saying that we have many challenges and problems in the United States. We’re not perfect by any means, but Americans are good people and we remain idealistic about how marvelous this world can be. We are the world’s eternal optimists and we are just and caring people. We can’t do much about jealous and frustrated foreigners who criticize our country, but when we see our fellow citizens criticizing the United States we can challenge their assertions and set them straight. They may not agree with us, but they will know that there are some of us who still believe that the United States of America is a very special place indeed.