We’re not the Greatest Country Updated

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In 2012, as Barack Obama was completing his first term, Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom debuted on HBO. In the incendiary opening scene, Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) is asked before a college crowd to explain why America was the greatest country in the world. After the other speakers said it was because of freedom, McAvoy unloaded.After pointing out the number of countries that also had freedom, he went on with, “We’re seventh in literacy, twenty-seventh in math, twenty-second in science, forty-ninth in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, number four in labor force, and number four in exports.“We lead the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending, where we spend more than the next twenty-six countries combined, twenty-five of whom are allies.”[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1zqOYBabXmA]He then segues into a lovely speech about what we used to be, the kind of emotional appeal that made Sorkin so beloved. It’s a terrific clip and one I use as an example of rhetorical appeals in my American Literature class. They were incredibly silent, enraptured.But, with all the talk of our president trying to make America great again, I got to wondering if things have truly improved since then. It was certainly on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s mind when he recently aped the speech, earning him conservative vitriol.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s0RAku7medI]I went online and found the current stats for the above categories. Were the show produced today, McAvoy’s speech would now say, “We’re seventh in literacy, thirty-eight in math, twenty-fourth in science, fifty-third in life expectancy, one hundred seventieth in infant mortality. sixth in median household income, number three in labor force, and number two in exports.“We lead the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending, where we spend more than the next twenty-six countries combined, twenty-five of whom are allies.”So, we’ve slipped especially in some vital categories such as median income but perhaps more importantly, in education where we need our students to be ready for global competition. Based on the above, we have yet to make American great again and are sliding.Yes, others can go research where we excel and lead the world in a variety of categories, none of which I will dispute. What I question and have yet to find good answers for is how has the current administration made us better?I see rollbacks in consumer and environmental protections, I see a budget deficit ballooning at an alarming rate, I see a lack of concern over human rights (here and abroad), and an executive branch more interested in punishing people than leading them.Am I missing something? 

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One thought on “We’re not the Greatest Country Updated

  1. The entire episode that begins with Jeff Daniel’s speech is amazing. The episode is actually about how news is presented, and news, on almost all platforms, is currently less informative and say less respected. We have not moved forward. It is time.

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