The Greatest Nation in the History

I was listening to NPR on the way to work today. I was listening to a story about a researcher in South Korea named Hwang Woo-Suk whose groundbreaking research accused of being fraudulent. This is not the point of my story. The point is that the people of South Korea are shocked. Businesses closed to listen to the researcher's press conference. A few weeks earlier, there had been some controversy about the source of the (human) eggs used for the research. In response, hundreds of South Korean women donated eggs to keep his research going. The correspondent said something along the lines of "It's hard to describe his status here in South Korea. He's like a science rock star."

I was thinking about how America has no 'rock star scientists.' Ask the average American to name one researcher doing important work today, and they'd give you a blank stare. I'd give you a blank stare and I'm a reasonably well informed person who's interested in science. I don't know exactly what that means for America. I'm reasonably sure it isn't good. Even this, though, isn't the point of this diary.

Last night Bill Maher was the guest on Larry King Live. (In general, I don't like Larry King. His 'news' tends to be sensational, driven by how much emotional response he can get out of an audience, and his subject is too often mothers of children who suffered some tragedy that is infinitely unlikely to happen to anybody else.) I do like Bill Maher. I don't get HBO, so I don't get to see his show anymore, but I wish I did. Always witty, well-informed and willing to call a spade a spade. Anyway, Bill Maher put into words something I've left unexpressed for a while.

People who think that America is "the Greatest Nation in the World" are idiots.

This not to say that I'm planning on moving. I like America. I wouldn't want to live anywhere else. (Spend a year? Yes. The rest of my life? No.) America is the greatest for me.

It's like saying "my mother is the greatest mother in the world." You're really only saying that because you don't really have the same relationship with any other mother in the world. It's the same with the morons claiming America's superiority in all things. They've never investigated Denmark's health system. Or England's land use councils. Or Italy's artistic heritage, or any other aspect of any other country. Hell, I bet a significant portion of the people claiming that "America's Number One!" haven't even visited another country, much less spent enough time in one to be anything other than a tourist.

Back to the mother illustration. I love my mother. I wouldn't trade my mother for any other mother in all the world. Period. That doesn't mean I think that my mother is perfect. She's human. She makes mistakes. Other people can criticize my mother for any number of things. She drives too fast. She makes her Mac & Cheese too runny. Whatever. I'll defend her when I think she's in the right. When she's not, I'm ready to admit that. (Yes, officer, she was speeding.) Now go through and substitute "country" for "mother."

People who think America is the best country in the world don't see things that way. Their mothers are perfect. You've met these people. They say things like "that's not the way I was taught to do it" or "No, lasagna is supposed to have ricotta and cottage cheese otherwise it's wrong." Or at least things to those affect.

These 'America above all others' people (let's call them Conservatives) won't accept criticism of their country without becoming angry, indignant, or combative. These people have the same relationship to their country that a 4 year old has to his or her mother. She's perfect. In every way. And anybody who says otherwise is attacking her and must be punished. This unquestioned support is compared to everybody else, who has a relationship with their country like an adult has with his or her mother, one where the mother is loved and respected but not necessarily unquestioned or thought to be without fault.

I wish that all the people who accuse others of being 'unpatriotic' when they have the audacity to say "That country over there handles this certain issue better than we do" would grow up. Seriously. Do they really think that unquestioned loyalty is the only proper way to be a citizen? My guess is only when the Republicans are in charge...

Teddy Roosevelt said, "Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the President or any other public official."

America would be a better place if we all stopped thinking we were God's gift to the world. (The alarming thing is that a lot of people believe we are literally God's gift to the world.) The problem is that not enough people get out of the US. Every student should be required to spend a semester in another country. Preferably not an English speaking one.

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