Apparently the folks at The New York Almighty Times decided this week would be a good time to show everybody how cosmopolitan they are. And, from their position in Gotham, how they have a better interpretation of this country than the yokels eating barbecue and drinking beer over the holiday.
As those of us in flyover country were getting ready to have a fifth on the Fourth, the "newspaper of record" put out a video opinion piece earlier this week, maybe even an editorial, with this message:
"How great America is really depends on how rich you are."
That's what the opinion piece was about. That's an actual quote. If it hasn't been taken down by the time you read this, you can find it on The New York Times' website.
Before we go any further, let's stipulate something for the record, fellow patriots: This may be one of those rah-rah editorials (see below), but we know this nation isn't perfect. It wasn't perfect from the beginning.
Slavery is the original sin of this nation, and will always cast a shadow, even in another 243 years. We still have a year to go before the United States celebrates the 100th anniversary of giving women the right to vote. Urban blight, racism, drug abuse, etc. As long as the United States is inhabited by human beings, the United States will be imperfect.
But back to the just-in-time-for-Independence-Day opinion video in The Times. We think it was meant as a video column, not a video editorial, but we never discovered who the first-person narrator was, and only 2 or 3 seconds at the end were devoted to the credits. But that's shop talk.
From the very start of the video, those of us who believe in American exceptionalism were mocked. That narrative, said the narrator, was sold to "tiny patriots," as footage of young kids in school, wearing 1950s attire, held hands over hearts, apparently saying the Pledge of Allegiance. Well.
America is the "richest country" in the well-off club, our friend announced, but also the poorest. America has a "whopping" 18 percent poverty rate, he said, "closer to Mexico than western Europe."
But is America poor Mexico poor? Does America poor have any resemblance to India poor, or Afghanistan poor? There are many living in so-called poverty in this country that have television sets, cell phones and roofs over their heads. And electricity to run all the appliances. They may qualify for food stamps, and get their groceries courtesy of American taxpayers, but they also have cars to get them to the store.
There are valid reasons to believe in American exceptionalism. One of them is this: Being poor in America is nothing like being poor elsewhere.
(How did the video measure poverty? Answer: Dunno. It never said.)
The narrator, in his quest to prove America is "just okay," notes that Americans are fatter than other nations, too.
But used to be, when folks were poor, they were skinny. Because they couldn't afford food. That's still how it is over most of the globe. Yes, there is plenty of obesity to go around in this country, but much of it is found among the poor here. We can imagine what somebody living 100 years ago in America would say to that. Or living today in India.
More from our friend in the opinion video:
"But we have freedom in America!" he says, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "And everyone's jealous! Or something."
No, not or something. They really are. Which is why folks keep trying to get to this country, legally, illegally or in-between. They sometimes die trying to get over the border. We saw something like that happen at the southern border this week when a man and his daughter drown crossing a river. How many people died last year trying to get to El Salvador?
"Turns out a lot of countries have freedoms."
Yes, and they're mostly western democracies. And which country leads the western democracies? And which country would come to the rescue of the western democracies if a more tyrannical country threatened them? Hint: It wouldn't be Denmark.
"So what, besides our economy and military, are we actually No. 1?"
Wait. Besides our economy and military? If a body is going to measure the nations of the world, those would be good places to start.
"It's gotten to a point," our friend continues, "where you can confuse America for a developing country, as elections are tampered with, water can't be drunk from taps, citizens don't trust uniformed officers, infrastructure is crumbling, and where a duel system is emerging when public services are for sale to the highest bidder."
Gosh, this sounds like an Elizabeth Warren commercial.
America can be confused with a developing country? Besides Flint, Mich., where can't water be drunk from taps? Dude, we've got so much potable water in this country that we flush it. And when a Flint, Mich., does happen, the country rallies and fixes it. We're not drinking from the Brahmaputra here.
Infrastructure could use improvement. But name a country in which it can't. The rich can afford private security here. Name a country in which they can't.
The conclusion of the video: "America may have once been the greatest, but today America, we're just okay."
But which country is better?
The narrator, whoever he was, never said.
F orget about landing on the moon and World War I and II for a minute. The United States has led the information revolution in this generation. And changed what drives the worldwide economy. From smartphones to modern agriculture, from private space exploration to new drugs, from video games to the movies.
People from around the world come to our hospitals to fight their diseases. They send their kids to school here. According to the U.S. News and World Report's listing of top colleges in the world, the United States has eight of the Top 10. And 16 of the Top 20. And 20 of the Top 30.
No other nation is even close to the number of Nobel Prizes won. The American Navy keeps the sea lanes open for the world's commerce. Americans top the lists for charitable giving.
The next time the German economy goes into recession, Americans might not even know it. Germans most certainly feel it when the United States goes into recession.
And that's just the stuff that can be measured. But there is another reason why some of us believe that America is more than just okay. It can be illustrated by asking a question:
If a hurricane or earthquake destroyed Caracas tomorrow, or Havana, or Ankara, or London, which country would lead the global effort to rebuild that city--and pay for most of it?
We'd say that that country would be more than okay. Some of us would even call it exceptional.
Editorial on 07/05/2019
Print Headline: America: Just okay?