“There is absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we’re the greatest country in the world.”
– Jeff Daniels’ character
on HBO’s The Newsroom
It’s interesting that producer Aaron Sorkin’s lead character doesn’t follow his rant by naming a greater country.
In a political diatribe masked as entertainment, Daniels’ character argues we’re no better than any other free country. “Freedom? So what? Lots of folks got that!” he essentially argues.
Well, that’s certainly a dim view of America – and a total ignorance of what goes into American exceptionalism. But even so, Daniels’ character vastly overstates the number of free countries in the world, as well as their freedoms. He doesn’t mention, for instance, that even in the enlightened nations of Western Europe, one can be charged criminally for stating a legitimate, albeit politically incorrect, opinion. We give you Brigitte Bardot and Geert Wilders, both of whom were put on trial there for expressing their opinions.
There. There’s some evidence for Mr. Sorkin that we’re the greatest country in the world. No one else has the First Amendment – the one and the same that allows Mr. Sorkin’s own commentary.
We think America is still the greatest nation on Earth.
That isn’t to say America doesn’t have its share of shortcomings. It does.
On July 4, 2007, we published our “Top 10 for America” – the top 10 things we think are necessary for the country to remain great (see box). The editorial was met with a tsunami of responses – as many as we’ve ever received.
But five years later, where do we stand? Have we made progress, stayed the same or slipped in each of the Top 10 categories?
Let’s take a look:
10. Lose weight: A June 2010 report of the Centers for Disease Control says, not surprisingly, that we’re getting fatter.
9. Stop blaming America for everything: In some circles, the blame-America train has only picked up speed. The current administration has apologized for America all over the world, and domestically blames rich people for just about every social ill.
8. Stop taking illicit drugs: There’s no sign of a letup – and, indeed, prescription drug abuse is skyrocketing. Congress last week even had to pass a law cracking down on the abuse of synthetic drugs marketed as “bath salts” that have been implicated in some horrific crimes.
7. Rein in the hedonism: The crash of 2008 has forced cutbacks on excess consumption, to be sure. But the culture is still largely devoid of virtue and values.
6. Bring back discretion: Maybe the category where we’ve lost the most ground. Fact is, indiscretion has gained speed thanks to social media: Now you can get unfiltered pablum instantly!
5. Make things again: It’s beyond us why a then-popular president, popular most fervently among unions, wouldn’t have led the country to a renaissance in manufacturing, but there it is. We can’t remain a great nation by pressing each other’s pants. The Obama campaign’s newest trial balloon is to assail challenger Mitt Romney as a guy who has outsourced jobs to other countries. What has this president done to bring them back? Count this category as another loss.
4. Innovation in education: Actually, here’s one place where we’ve gained ground – mostly in non-union states where charter and school choice initiatives have been nurtured.
3. Rein in government spending: Fail. Fail, fail, fail, fail.
Without a doubt, the category where we’ve lost the most ground. Debt has been added in Washington since 2007 at a faster pace than probably anytime anyplace in history. Washington is spending more than $1 trillion more a year than it takes in, and borrows 40 cents of every dollar it spends – leaving that debt for future generations.
2. Increase individual responsibility: Another big fail. Instead of encouraging the kind of can-do self reliance this country was
built upon, the class warfare, blame-the-rich, Occupy Wall Street movements, stoked by this president, have taken personal responsibility completely off the table. What a shame and a tragedy, as that brand of victimization will discourage many from pursuing their dreams and becoming their best selves.
Meanwhile, the federal government has recently advertised to encourage more people to get on food stamps.
You can’t make this stuff up.
1. Get back to God: The jury is still out. Some folks still believe the Constitution outlaws all public acknowledgement of God, and students still risk repercussions for mentioning the Almighty in graduation speeches (though the First Amendment protects the
free exercise of religion). And recently Americans United for Separation of Church and State formed a new chapter in the Augusta area.
The evidence is unambiguous and incontrovertible: The people who founded this nation made no bones about honoring God, even in their public roles. It’s not making a law “respecting an establishment of religion.” It’s acknowledging the same higher power our Founders did.
And they knew a little something about the Constitution.
There are many things we
need to do to shore up this country and return it to its former greatness.
It wouldn’t hurt to start at No. 1.