When I finally got the chance to watch the season premier of Game of Thrones tonight, I saw a trailer for an upcoming HBO series called The Newsroom.
I won’t bother describing the show. If you’re interested you can click the link there and check it out. It looks okay.
I’ll preface the rest of this post with this: This post is purely my own thoughts. I have no agenda. I am not trying to change, degrade, or trivialize anyone’s views on anything. I disagree with myself so often that I expect to disagree with others, and I invite anyone reading this to disagree with me as much as they want.
What I wanted to talk about was inspired by a Facebook comment thread between a few of my friends. It started when one of them quoted a fun line from the trailer:
“In case you accidentally wander into a voting booth someday, there are some things you should know. We are 45th in literacy, 20th in science, 43rd in life expectancy, 34th in infant mortality, 2nd in median household income, 3rd in labor force, and 3rd in exports. Now, none of this is the fault of a 20-year-old college student, but when you ask what makes us the greatest country in the world, I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.”
The post was made out of an attempt to be humorous, but the comments quickly turned to actual useful discussion. Is the United States of America really the greatest country in the world?
One comment brought up China, and how they rank ahead of us in many categories, yet many cities live at a standard below the average American.
Another brought up the number of student and work visas are requested on a yearly basis.
Another reiterated that the standard of living for our lower class is still higher than most other countries. Many in the lower class have televisions, cars, and cell phones.
I’m not here to determine who is right and who is wrong. I just have a few things to say that I don’t think would fit well into a Facebook comment.
I’ll start by saying that yes, I do believe America is the greatest country in the world, but I say this as a white male raised in a middle class suburb of a smaller city in the midwest. I’ve had every opportunity to succeed in life. Whether I’ve taken full advantage of this is another matter entirely.
Without disclosing too much of my life here, I will say this much: At this point in my life I live below the poverty line in terms of net income. And yes, I own a car (that my father bought for me), a television (that I’ve had for over a decade), and a cell phone (the one extravagance I actually spend any real money on, and the payment is late). So, as you can see, just because people have possessions does not exclude them from the “poor” discussion.
My father always told me that no matter how bad I think I have it, someone else has it far worse. I fully believe that, and have tried my best not to complain about my lot in life. I still feel that I will always have the opportunity to change my status. I still believe in the American Dream, however more difficult it is to achieve today than it was 50 years ago.
Many people around the world, and even some in those countries that “rank higher than us”, don’t have that opportunity, that hope, that dream. Therefore I live a life of privilege.
When I see people bring up all of these statistics and rankings, it just makes me wonder one thing: We, as Americans, have power, wealth, and technology the rest of the world would kill us for, and we can’t even be a top-ten educated nation? We can’t provide for the health and well-being of our own people? That with all our technology, 42 other countries have longer life spans?
What the fuck!?
Now, I don’t presume to have a fix for any of this, but I do presume to make sure people know about it. How can we expect our nation to be the world leader it purports itself to be when we’re more worried about our oil imports, our military, and our pocketbooks than we are our education, literacy, and overall health and well-being. Without education and health, where are we headed?
It appears to me that the Americans are more concerned with holding on to their power than they are actually using that power to make a real difference, a real improvement in our future, but here and worldwide.
I am fully aware of all the charities and outreach programs with the sole purpose of lifting people out of poverty and into a better life. how would things be if those didn’t exist? Well, they’d probably be like most of the other countries with lower quality of life.
I’m no expert, but I’m no idiot either. Throughout history, power has come and gone, and changed hands more times than you can count. I’m not saying that education and health are the game-changers that will keep us on the forefront of the world stage.
But it wouldn’t hurt, right?