Writing for the Boston Globe, Neal Gabler recently stated: “The hoariest and most oft-repeated cliché in American politics may be that America is the greatest country in the world. Every politician, Democrat and Republican, seems duty bound to pander to this idea of American exceptionalism, and woe unto him who hints otherwise.”
Gabler reminds us that, far from being exceptional, America is quite mediocre, as we rank low in education (the teachers’ unions have nothing to do with it, I’m sure) and health care (we’re dying in the streets!), and are behind other nations when it comes to median income (gasp!). And when it comes to national pride, it’s okay as long as we keep things in perspective: “The point is that just about every country has a lot to be proud of, and America has no more right to assume it is the greatest nation in the world than does France, Switzerland, China, or Russia.” He’s right. How dare we hold our heads higher than anyone else?
You know, I’d better show his article to my neighbor, Marcio. See, Marcio came here from Brazil and not only went from working as a sandwich maker in a deli to owning his own painting business with his father-in-law, but is working toward citizenship. I wouldn’t want him to take the oath of citizenship without knowing what he’s getting into.
Gabler makes me wish that Paul Revere had decided to stay in bed that night instead of warning his fellow citizens that the British were coming, that Betsy Ross had told George Washington she was too busy working on a quilt to sew the first flag, and that the Minutemen had put away their dangerous muskets (you’ll put your eye out, kid!) and just stood by as the redcoats swept through Boston and Massachusetts on their way to an easy victory. Think of all the heartache that would have saved! No “Stars and Stripes Forever,” no ugly American syndrome, no McDonald’s, no Coca-Cola, no GI Joe. Slavery? That would have been the UK’s problem, not America’s.
Perhaps we could have eventually ended up as part of Canada, and then we wouldn’t have to worry about people dying in the streets for lack of health care or not having enough maple syrup for their pancakes and waffles. Inexpensive maple syrup ought to be a constitutional right, don’t you think? I’m tired of paying six to eight bucks for a measly 12 ounces. Speaking of ounces, we wouldn’t have to be embarrassed because we haven’t joined the rest of the world in using the metric system. Heck, we wouldn’t have to be embarrassed about anything because we wouldn’t be Americans; we’d be Canadians. What could be finer?
There would have been no World War I — oh wait, Canada did get involved to support Britain, so as Canadians we would have been involved too. But we wouldn’t have been involved in World War II — oops, forgot, Canadians were a part of that fracas too. Never mind. But just imagine what the world would have been like without America to put her nose in everyone else’s business. Perhaps all the Jews in Europe would have perished under Hitler. Hooray! Perhaps Japan would not be the peaceful, productive nation it is today but would be ruling the Pacific with an iron fist. Awesome! But there I go again, suggesting that America might have had some kind of hand in the outcome of World War II, meaning that America has some reason to be proud of herself. Old habits die hard. But don’t worry, I’m learning.