Slavery, Indian Removal Act, child labor, sexism, Japanese internment camps, segregation, Vietnam War, Watergate, etc…
How can someone possibly argue that the United States was ever “great”?!
And then on top of that the United States has the highest prison rates, suffers from de facto segregation, lags behind the developed world in education, and is trillions of dollars in debt!
How can anyone argue that America is “great”?!
What does it even mean to be “great”?
Is a “great” nation one that has the most money or happiest people or longest lifespans or biggest military or smallest CO2 footprint?
For me, the greatest nations are those that do the most amount of good for the most amount of people.
Therefore, let’s turn our attention to humanity as a whole.
Statistically, humanity has never been more free, healthy, happy, safe, and rich. Fact.
This means whenever you watch the news reporting on North Korea, mass shootings, protests, or ebola, one must put it into context.
This then begs the question, what one nation is most responsible for the way the world is today?
And for that, my friends, the answer is unequivocally clear: The United States of America.
Without the United States, the world with all its problems would be drastically different and likely worse.
As humans, we have remarkably short memories. If George W. Bush walked into a café, I’m sure a lot of people would confuse him with Will Ferrell.
And as much as we overlook the past, we drastically overestimate the durability of freedom and the present moment.
Most humans, over the course of history, were in one form or another — slaves. Freedom is an aberration.
And society may very well return to this historical norm sooner than we think if we don’t pay proper respect to the values that got us here.
And as terrible as we are at remembering the past, we are also terrible at predicting the future. The very week Donald Trump was elected — the most powerful man in the world — experts were giving him nearly a 0% chance of winning.
By gaining a greater appreciation for the fragility of freedom and our fortune in this era, we should therefore gain a greater appreciation for the greatness of the United States of America.
Why is it so important to value the U.S.?
It’s because the U.S. is fundamentally a collection of ideas and values.
Ideas such as separation of powers, representative democracy, constitutionalism, federalism, human rights, and equality before the law (at least in theory).
Ideas that we take for granted because most of the world has adopted them, too, but ideas are only as useful as the number of humans willing to adopt them.
There are a lot of young people in particular who wish to burn the U.S. flag and U.S. constitution because they see them as symbols of racism and oppression.
And in some ways, they’re right.
But they wouldn’t just be burning the concepts and history they disagree with, but the concepts and history that have allowed them to burn the flag and the Constitution in the first place, without being crucified, impaled, hanged, or knelt down and shot in the back of the head.
Humans are plastic. — Seth Godin
We are plastic in the sense that at a young age we are very malleable and then as we age we harden into place.
You and I have been shaped in such a way to value freedom and human rights. We believe so strongly in these things as to see them as non-debatable.
But they are debatable!
I can’t stress this enough.
Nazi’s were humans.
Soviets were humans.
MS-13 are humans.
Must I recount the atrocities these humans have committed?
Humans with normal functioning brains can be bred to be absolute angels or sheer devils.
This is the power and malleability of the human mind, and it’s why culture matters.
It’s a human who may cuddle a child to sleep while reading a bedtime story for the 3rd time in a row, despite having to wake up early for work the following day. And it’s a human who may shoot that child in the back of the head because she questioned the validity of the bedtime story.
The world has come incredibly close in living memory to being ruled by such demons.
And the PRIMARY reason why our better angels prevailed is because of the United States of America.
Hitler held out in WW2 for as long as he did, even when his generals said the war was lost, because he hoped German scientists would finally unlock the mystery of the atomic bomb.
Just imagine a world where the Nazis got the nuke first!
You’re gay? Dead.
You’re Jewish? Dead.
You're loud-mouthed? Dead.
You're non-German? Dead or enslaved.
If the U.S. didn’t enter WW2 and specifically focus on Nazi Germany, despite Japan being the one that attacked us at Pearl Harbor, then most historians agree Germany would’ve likely gotten the nuke (the U.S. got it in 1945, and the U.S.S.R. got it in 1949) because Nazi Germany’s military technology was far more advanced than that of the Soviet Union, and even the United States, at the time.
The U.S. was like Superman, flying in at the last moment to save the falling girl from the burning building.
John F. Kennedy once said, “Power reveals.”
After WW2, when the world was in rubble, what did the United States do? The U.S. could have easily conquered the globe. No one would have had the capability to halt the U.S. military-industrial complex with its doomsday weapon.
But instead of enslaving the world, as every previous empire sought to do, the United States lent and gave money to numerous nations so that they could rebuild, and not fall to the tyranny of communism.
Eventually, communism was defeated, too, and with the rise of democracy and capitalism, the world has never seen such a high standard of living!
But the world isn’t as great as it is just because the U.S. helped stop the bad guys, but also because the U.S. creates great things.
Many things you enjoy in your life, no matter where you live, were invented by an American or an American immigrant.
In the end, I’m not looking for a red carpet to be rolled out to me simply because I’m an American.
The United States, much like humans, is self-interested and often short-sighted, but may we occasionally take a break from pointing out her flaws to celebrate her blessings.
May we put her past into context by not just focusing on what she hasn’t done for a particular ethnicity, or even for you as an individual, but on what she has done for humanity as a whole.
And may we see that regardless of where we are from, we all have a little America in us.
Happy Independence Day!