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The Telescope

U.S. exceptionalism isn’t automatic

T. Opinion

America is a great nation. An exceptional one even.

But is she the greatest country? That’s much more difficult to discern.

We spew tired mantras of exceptionalism and exclusivity like oft-repeated hymns. We talk to each other like America is the only country with freedom.

But she isn’t. Whether or not we want to accept that is another issue.

Literacy, math and science ratings, infant mortality and life expectancy. These are all areas where we don’t even break the Top 10 in ranking. It’s arguable, but so many other countries do certain things better than we do.

What we do have is the largest prison population in the civilized world. Not per capita, just an overall higher amount of prisoners. How many of those are violent, harmful criminals and how many are kids on a drug possession offense?

We have an ungodly defense budget. We top the list and spend more than the next 25 countries combined. We have the world’s greatest military. But we perfect the art of fighting the last type of war just in time for the next one. Could that money be better spent?

We have a broken healthcare system. We have some of the greatest doctors in the world. But we spend more on healthcare than any other civilized nation. Even simple, routine procedures can leave an individual or family deep in debt.

We have a higher education system that piles thousands of dollars of debt onto students who haven’t even entered the workforce. That’s not building a future young people can look forward to. Germany, Norway, Argentina and Finland are all countries with tuition-free universities. But we are so deathly afraid of “socialism” that we cower in fear of any type of free education.

What we had for years, until late 2014, was the most ideologically-charged and least productive U.S. Congress in the entirety of American history. When politics are based on obstructionism, rather than actual progress, what can we hope to achieve?

A few weeks ago, Rudy Giuliani criticized the President for “not loving America.” I can’t speak on behalf of the commander-in-chief or Mr. Giuliani but what can be ventured is that blaming all of our problems on whoever happens to be president is ignorance. Saying that the President doesn’t love his country because he criticizes it is ignorance. Plain and simple.

It seems like we’ve traded intelligent commentary and critical thinking for blind partisanship and line-voting. We can’t stomach the truth anymore; we’d rather be spoon-fed biased propaganda to help nurture our personal worldview.

It’s sad the number of pessimists who think America is being stripped of her core values, that she is headed down the wrong path, that this presidency is the worst we’ve ever had. None of these things are true. Just because someone disagrees with popular opinion doesn’t mean that we’re on a headlong course into the apocalypse.

America has seen much worse and persevered.

We spend more time bickering at our political opposition than actually getting things done. If America has an enemy, it’s not someone across the aisle.

It’s apathy, arrogance, laziness and being uninformed.

America has achieved so many great things in her short span of history. This nation has a masterpiece of a constitution and an efficient set of checks and balances. We’ve cultivated a mighty economy in our time. Some of the world’s greatest inventors, artists and culture creators have been American.

Americans have fought and died for freedom, not just for themselves but for others. We spearheaded world wars and stood up for what was right. We built sprawling cities and buildings that scrape the sky, produced media consumed by the entire world. We were great once, certainly. Perhaps we still are.

But we can’t let the achievements of the past blind us from the mistakes we make today, we can’t let our nostalgia keep us from moving forward.

The idea that America is exceptional is not sacred. It should not be sacrilege to criticize her when she falters. We, as Americans, should want the best for our nation. This includes correcting our path when we’ve gone astray.

America is beautiful because of her opportunity for advancement, for adaptation. The founders knew this. They wrote it into the elastic clause of the Constitution.

If we want American exceptionalism to be true, we need to step up to the plate. America is not exceptional by default, she’s exceptional because of the great men and women who made her that way.

We need to address where we are wrong and where we could do better, without bias or compromise, and fix those problems.

We should love America. Not just for what she was or for what she is. We should love her for what she could be.

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U.S. exceptionalism isn’t automatic