As an American citizen, I have grown up with the notion that America is the greatest country in the world. Every day I recite the pledge of allegiance by memory, I celebrate the birth of my nation with festivities and fireworks, and I cannot go a day without seeing the American flag. And why should I not believe that notion? We are the land of the free and our rights are protected by the U.S constitution. But, the fact is, we are technically not the best in the world. We are number 1 in obesity, 44th in health care, 2nd in ignorance, and 14th in education. In addition, despite America’s constitution, America has treated African Americans, Native Americans, and Japanese Americans like garbage. But should these statistics and America’s past influence how Americans see themselves today? I plan to explore our country’s excessive patriotism and decide whether or not it is justifiable.
The words “patriotism” and “nationalism” are two similar yet different words that reference one’s attitudes to his or her nation. Patriotism is derived from the word “patriot” which comes from several Greek and Latin words that first translate to countryman and then to the fatherland. Patriotism is the love and passion one has for their country. Patriots take responsibility for their country’s actions and believe improvements can be made. In contrast, Nationalism was first used in ancient Hebrew by the chosen people or superior beings.Nationalism is showing extreme passion for one’s country, almost in the sense of rivalry. Nationalist believe their nation is superior to all other nations, despite their country’s wrongdoings.
Many American citizens will adamantly argue that America is the best Country in the world. From a very young age, Americans are taught that their country is number one. From constant displays of the American flag and repeating the pledge of allegiance every morning in school, the are demonstrating the love of their country through patriotism. But areAmerican citizen’s patriotism justifiable? Or is America simply not as great as everyone makes it our to be.
On September 17, 1787, thirty-eight delegates signed the U.S Constitution which forever changed the meaning of being an American. ( “The Constitution: How Did It Happen?” par. 5). The most important part of the U.S Constitution is the Bill of Rights which protects the citizens of the United States. The Bill of Rights consists of ten amendments that guarantee the rights of the American people. Due to these laws made two-hundred and thirty years ago, Americans individual freedoms and rights. Countries such as North Korea, Sudan, and Burma, are the three worst Countries when it comes to human rights (Borgen par. 1). In North Korea, women are forced to drown their own babies, public executions are common even, and all legal punishment is order by their dictator, Kim Jong Un. Similarly, citizens of South Sudan live in constant fear due to to the lack of government order and law in the country. South Sudan is home to bloody massacres that have killed 50,000 people and one million of their citizens have fled the country in hopes of safety (Borgen par.1-5). In addition, Saudi Arabia women are treated like dirt because of their sex and are an extremely violated group. According to Clint Borgen, Saudi Arabia females are “considered to be at the bottom of the totem pole, often denied legal rights and knowingly oppressed by the country’s political entities. Women are not allowed to drive or vote, despite the fact, there is no express law making it illegal.” In American, everyone is considered equal despite their sex, race, or religion. America is considered one of the safest countries in the world because of the U.S constitution, that forbids discrimination and other unjust acts, and it is the reason why so many people immigrant to that country. As Calvin Coolidge once said, “To live under the American Constitution is the greatest political privilege that was ever accorded to the human race.”
Not only does America protect their own citizens but it also actively fights to protect others. In 1939, when sadistic leader Adolf Hitler attempted to completely wipe out Jewish population, America chose to fight. Current president at the time, President Franklin Roosevelt, believed America was “the great arsenal of democracy” and by not joining in this battle America would be allowing other horrific acts to take place. The United States was a member of the Axis Powers during WWII, which was the main contributor to the fall of Hitler’s reign (Brick par.1-6). America help won this battle by use of their military to protect the rights of other human beings. Without America’s military involvement in WWII, thousands of innocent of people would not be alive today. Today, America continues to be the world’s biggest military support system. Since WWII, America has developed the Army National Guard which responds to natural disasters, power outages, and chemical/nuclear incidents in America. For example, 70,000 American soldiers were deployed to Hurricane Katrina following the disaster that struck the Gulf Coast of the United States (Eaglen par.9). In addition, the U.S Army Medical Research Institute is America’s first defense for epidemics such as smallpox and ebola. America’s military is a strong force that people around the world acknowledge because it provides security and safety for their own people as well as others. (Eaglen par 15-18). America’s influential pull reassures allies and according to Mackenzie Eagle, “nothing worries our current and potential adversaries like the agility and ingenuity of American ground forces.”
There is no doubt America is a wonderful place to live. The pride and passion America citizen’s demonstrate for their country is understandable, but do America’s positive actions outweigh their negative actions? Perhaps by reevaluating America’s history one can figure out why these protections and laws are needed in the first place.
Borgen, Clint. “Top 3 Countries with the Worst Human Rights Violations.” The Borgen Project. The Borgen Project, 24 Jan. 2017. Web. 04 Mar. 2017
Brick, Christopher. “World War II (1939-1945).” World War II (1939-1945). Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, 2016. Web. 05 Mar. 2017.
Eaglen, Mackenzie. “5 Ways the US Army Changes Lives in America.” Aeideas. Americans Enterprise Institution, 15 Sept. 2015. Web. 4 Mar. 2017.
“The Constitution: How Did It Happen?” National Archives and Records Administration. National Archives and Records Administration, 10 Feb. 2016. Web. 04 Mar. 2017.
Despite America’s many accomplishments and contributions, many people draw a line at declaring America as exceptional. American exceptionalism is based on the notion that America differs in quality compared to other nations simply by its historical evolution, freedom, and democratic ideals (Kwak par.1). But by that definition, several countries would be considered exceptional. America adopted this superior ideology in in 1831, a time when many around the world believed America was an outstanding country. (Kwak par. 3). From America’s rebellion against their own mother country to becoming a hugely influential and successful country, America was truly unique and respected. However, in the 21st century, America does not carry the same prestige it did before. In the modern world, America is perceived as arrogant, dumb, and obese, yet extremely patriotic. Many believe that America’s patriotism is not justifiable due to the fact America only leads the world in unappealing categories, such as obesity, anxiety disorders, and cocaine use, and the so-called ‘exceptional’ characteristics America possess are inaccurate. (Stuart par. 6-12).
In contrast to popular belief, America is not diverse. According to the Pew Research Center, America is average, not exceptional, when compared to the other countries in the world in association with diversity (Morin par. 6). America’s neighbor countries, Mexico and Canada, are found to be more diverse, and Africa is the most diverse country with other 100 ethnic groups, 37 tribal groups, and 39 languages. (Morin par. 1&11). In fact, America struggles with accepting diversity. Race, religion, and sexuality are issues where America struggles. Where the main race in America is caucasian, with 80%, the main religion the country is Christianity, and the majority of people identify as a heterosexual. This creates conflict for those who do not fall into those categories and it can become very dangerous. For example, in America, 48.5% of hate crime victims were targeted based on race, 19.2% were targeted based on sexual orientation, 18.7% is target based on religious belief, 12.1% targeted based on ethnicity/national origin, and 1.4% were targeted based on their disability (“Victims” par. 2). For a country that takes pride in their diversity, people who are not caucasian, or Christian, or straight are not exactly welcomed.
Eighty percent of American high schoolers receive a diploma, but once forty percent actually earn it. Meaning, less than half of high school graduates are proficient in math and reading. This startling fact is believed to be caused by America’s poor education system. Many children in America are passed to the next grade despite learning the correct curriculum and other school systems simply do not receive the correct funding to teach their students the correct curriculum (Lynch par. 10-12). Many Americans are believed to by unintelligent and statistics from multiple research teams agree. According to Pearson, the United States has a “cognitive skills and educational attainment” score of 0.39, making the U.S 14th. Based on social statistics such as teen pregnancy, unemployment rates, and voting patterns from the IPSOS America ranks second in ignorance. With an average literacy rate of 498 out of 1000, America is ranked 24th in the world (“Education-Ranking America” par.1-6).
As President Obama, once said, “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” Basically, every country believes they are the best despite facts and statistics. Americans are obviously not the number one nation, statistically wise, but they believe they are as does almost every other country. So, why do so many people believe American exceptionalism is harmful?
“Education-Ranking America.” Ranking America. World Press, 27 Feb. 2015. Web. 09 Mar. 2017.
Kwak, Chung H. “American Exceptionalism.” New World Encyclopedia. Paragon House Publishers, 3 Nov. 2016. Web. 08 Mar. 2017.
Lynch, Matthew. “10 Reasons the U.S. Education System Is Failing.” Education Week. Editorial Projects in Education, 29 Aug. 2015. Web. 09 Mar. 2017.
Morin, Rich. “The Most (and Least) Culturally Diverse Countries in the World.” Pew Research Center. Pew Research Center, 18 July 2013. Web. 09 Mar. 2017.
Stuart, Lynn. “8 Shocking Ways America Leads the World.” Alternet. Alternet, 29 July 2013. Web. 08 Mar. 2017.
“Victims.” FBI. FBI, 05 Nov. 2013. Web. 09 Mar. 2017.
American exceptionalism is an example of the hegemonic stability theory: “it is important that there should be an exceptional power in the world that would make sure that some very basic rules of the games in the international community are observed” (Koshkin par. 10). The United States is seen as an exceptional leader in regards to protecting human rights and they have demonstrated their leadership in the Second World War when the League of Nations was founded as a predecessor to the United Nations (Koshhkin par. 8). The exceptional opportunities in America are the reason why so many people are attracted to the United States (Koshkin par. 13) In America, everyone is considered equal despite their sex, race, or religion. As Calvin Coolidge once said, “To live under the American Constitution is the greatest political privilege that was ever accorded to the human race.”
Whether there is merit to the claim that America is an exceptional country, the direction that American exceptionalism has taken is harmful. American exceptionalism promotes a sense of superiority that is harmful to its citizens. Due to this, Many Americans have developed the muddle through mentality- a mentality that chooses to ignore prominent issues. For example, a poll taken by the Pew Research showed a majority of the U.S population believes global warming is a real problem, but yet 21% believe that America should not take action until it is an absolutely proven problem, and 42% low-cost steps should be taken (Kohut par. 34). In addition, Americans blame the loss of U.S. jobs because of imports. But in recent years they happily purchased record amounts of imported goods, citing their high quality and relatively low prices (Kohut par. 36). In addition, the American exceptionalism blinds people to the true facts about their own society. Many believe the United States behaves better than others, when in fact, we start several wars of our own, in-slave humans, torture foreigners, and kill innocents (Walt par. 9-12).
Kohut, Andrew, and Bruce Stokes. “The Problem of American Exceptionalism.” Pew Research Center. Pew Research Center, 09 May 2006. Web. 16 Mar. 2017.
Koshkin, Pavel, and Yuri Barmin. “American Exceptionalism: Curse or Boon?” Russia Direct. Russia Direct, 04 Oct. 2013. Web. 16 Mar. 2017.
Walt, Stephen M. “The Myth of American Exceptionalism.” Foreign Policy. Word Press, 11 Oct. 2011. Web. 16 Mar. 2017.