Tuesday, July 5, 2011

U.S.A. number 1?

If Mario Kart has taught me anything, being number one is a mixed bag. You get first dibs on the latest swag and you can drop trash in the path of other contenders, but everyone is always gunning for you. And then there's the damn blue shell, seeking out first place like a socialist wrecking ball.

I guess I've never really cared if America was, in the words of Sean Hannity, "the greatest, best country God has ever given man on the face of the earth." Since I never cared, I don't suppose I ever asked myself if I believed it. PEW recently asked that question of Americans, and it seems most of us don't.

Just under 38% of Americans believe the United States stands alone at number one. Most respondents (53%) believe America stands among the greatest countries in the world. Then there's the pessimistic 8% who believe other countries are flat out better. Also, as you might expect, conservatives tend to hold the "U.S.A. number 1" view while liberals tend to be more pluralistic with their praise.

Now that I ask myself where I stand, I suppose I don't really know. When you talk about wealth and military might, we're certainly near or at the top. Consider things like education, health care or even happiness indexes, not so much. But does that mean other countries are better than us?

I think the best answer is, "Yes, at some things." Maybe such a statement is blasphemous so near Independence Day, but I don't see it as unpatriotic. Patriotism is simply the love and support of one's country.

I love and support a great many people and things in my life, and with love comes honesty. Looking at the world as it is rather than as you hope it would be allows you to transform those hopes into reality. If we got past the platitudes we could do it.

Thankfully, according to the same PEW study, well over half of Americans believe we can solve the problems we face. I am among those individuals, but recognizing the shortcomings comes first.

Anxious as I am sitting in first place, it's a good place to be because it means your getting something right. In the end, I guess a part of me misses looking over my shoulder for the blue shell.

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