America hasn’t lost its greatness

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America hasn’t lost its greatness

Story by Lauren Freking, Columnist

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Even the best of the best athletes are imperfect.

Michael Phelps has gotten more than a few second-place titles. He even went through a dry spell and at one point was caught smoking weed.

Michael Jordan did not make every shot. Venus Williams suffered through tennis tournaments with Sjogren’s syndrome, causing chronic fatigue.

Phelps, Jordan and Williams all suffered some career stumbles and imperfections. Yet all three athletes are the best in their field.

There are not official awards to rate each country in the world in relation to each other. Even the lists of statistics like highest death rate, highest level of drug addicts, and rate of childbirth can be founded upon questionable data.

Recently a YouTube video entitled “Why America is Not the Greatest Country on Earth” went viral. The video is a clip from the HBO series The Newsroom. The main character, Jeff Daniels, delivers a message about the weakening of America.

The video leaves little room for argument, as stonewalling (a common tactic in abusive relationships where the abuser states facts or accusations that may not be true with no room for rebuttal or questioning) usually does. It lists “facts” from unknown sources and guides the listener to “the only logical conclusion,” which is that America sucks.

At one point before the viewer has time to question the truth behind all the seemingly unrelated, yet purposefully chosen claims, Daniels argues that the first step to solving a problem is realizing the problem. By making this argument at the end, it makes viewers feel as though they have no choice but to believe that America is not thriving anymore and we are not at all the greatest country on Earth.

I am here to argue the opposite. While I agree that we have made mistakes as a country and have many problems that need to be fixed, I would say with complete confidence that America is the greatest country in the world.

Before I arrived in Europe for a semester, I expected that my views would become expanded and that my eyes would be open to American weaknesses. I expected to see clearly why our country is so weak … After all that is what many others besides Jeff Daniels have tried to prove.

Instead, as my time in Italy has progressed, I’ve grown more confident that we are still a strong and thriving country, the best country in the world.

The video argues that we are number four in exports, not number one. I would argue that is because we are a country full of advanced research and development jobs, not manufacturing jobs that lead to exports.

The video states we are 49th in life expectancy, which is true, but it fails to point out that we are only four years behind the leading three countries. The difference in years is rather short and the statistic varies greatly from year to year.

The United States does not top any of the charts for education, yet we have the best economy in the world. So clearly our students are doing fine.

HBO’s clip also says that we used to be the best country in the world because “We stood up for what was right. We fought for moral reason. We passed laws, struck down laws, for moral reason. We waged wars on poverty, not on poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors, we put our money where our mouths were, and we never beat our chest. We built great, big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and we cultivated the world’s greatest artists and the world’s greatest economy.”

Where are the statistics saying we no longer stand up for what is right? Why do people think we aren’t fighting for moral reason when people protest for the rights of others each day? I would argue that most of us do still sacrifice for others and our neighbors. We still build “great, big things” and make “ungodly technological advances” (hello, iPhone). We also are still curing diseases and have the greatest economy.

I know that throwing out statistics and refuting claims still isn’t enough to convince everyone that America is the greatest country on earth. So let me tell you what I’ve seen since my time abroad.

The health care system in Europe is not better than America’s, and socialization did not improve their overall health. Most doctors treat the symptoms of the problems rather than the actual illness. I’ve seen this several times as friends have gotten sick here. I even know an Italian woman on my street who has been sick for years and will probably never actually be cured because most doctors here treat symptoms.

America’s education system is often attacked, yet I have heard of several Europeans wanting their children to have an American education. Even China, viewed as one of our main competitors, sends more than 160,000 students to our schools each year.

Although college is expensive in America, the system motivates students to working hard and striving to achieve. In Austria and other countries I’ve visited where education is practically free; several college graduates end up in low-paying jobs living off of government welfare because they were not motivated to pursue more.

The United States of America is a much more accepting and diverse place than much of the world. We still have miles to go with our fight for women’s equal pay and many more issues, yet we are so far ahead of Europe. In Italy the citizens are guilty of much more racism than anywhere in America. Not the kind of racism that causes outward disagreements, just a general notion and acceptance that non-white people are not on the same level.

Our accessibility in the United States is so much greater than in all of Europe. We are able to drive our cars to Target after a full day of work and take care of picking up groceries, batteries, kitchenware, and cosmetics all in one trip. In Europe those things would span over several days. As a result of our accessibility we are a much more productive country.

Yes, there is value to slowing down the pace of our daily lifestyle, but we gain exponentially by productivity.

We have some of the top companies in the world from Apple to Amazon, and most cutting-edge technology that is used worldwide results from American innovation. In my business class we talk about American companies 90 percent of the time…and keep in mind this is an Italian business class at an Italian university.

Like Lance Armstrong could have gone without the blood doping, we could go without all the processed foods and chemicals in our cleaning products. As Michael Phelps took second place at times, we are not going to be the most technologically innovative country every single year. Even as Venus Williams struggled through fatigue and the United States has struggled through recessions, that does not mean that we aren’t the best in our field.

We will be questioned on issues like gun control, and we will need to respond to weaknesses like that accordingly. Nevertheless, most Europeans really admire our country. Just because the “loud, obnoxious” American personality is not accepted in Europe does not mean that Europeans disagree with the way America works.

It is important to see our shortcomings so that we can work on them, but at the same time we should remember that even Michael Jordan made mistakes. The attitude that “we really aren’t the best” is only making our weaknesses worse.

I’m passionate that our country really is the best in the world.