"America Is Not The Greatest Country In The World Anymore" Is One Of The Most Patriotic Things You'll Hear
This clip is from the first episode of HBO's "The Newsroom," which just wrapped up its third and final season in December.
At once wistful and provocative, this scene shows Jeff Daniels' character Will McAvoy giving a searing monologue in front of an audience full of college students. It's a speech that confronts what we know – or think we know – about America and about being American.
This scene is one of the best you'll find in the series – or anywhere on television – and after watching it, you'll see why Jeff Daniels' performance in "The Newsroom" took home an Emmy in 2013.
Here's a partial transcript.
"And with a straight face, you're gonna sit there and tell students that America is so star-spangled awesome that we're the only ones in the world who have freedom? Canada has freedom. Japan has freedom. The U.K. France. Italy. Germany. Spain. Australia. BELGIUM has freedom. (laughs) Two hundred and seven sovereign states in the world, like, a hundred and eighty of them have freedom.
And you, Sorority Girl, just in case you accidentally wander into a voting booth one day, there's some things you should know. One of them is there's absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we're the greatest country in the world. We're seventh in literacy. Twenty-seventh in math. Twenty-second in science. Forty-ninth in life expectancy. A hundred and seventy-eighth 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.
Now none of this is the fault of a twenty-year-old college student, but you nonetheless are without a doubt a member of the worst, period, generation, period, ever, period. So when you ask what makes us the greatest country in the world, I dunno what the fuck you're talkin' about. Yosemite?
Sure used to be. We stood up for what was right. We fought for moral reasons. We passed laws, struck down laws, for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed. We cared about our neighbors. We put our money where our mouths were. And we never beat our chest.
We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and we cultivated the world's greatest artists and the world's greatest economy.
We reached for the stars. Acted like men.
We aspired to intelligence. We didn't belittle and it didn't make us feel inferior.
We didn't identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election, and we didn't, oh, we didn't scare so easy. Ha. We were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed. By great men. Men who were revered. First step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. America is not the greatest country in the world anymore. Enough?"
Unfortunately, at least some of these claims are true.
And actually, it's gotten worse.
According to a 2013 report by Business Insider, American students now rank 31st in math, 24th in science, and 21st in reading. Shanghai-China tops all three categories, followed by Singapore. Worldwide, we rank 22nd in literacy. Cuba ranks 5th.
We are the world's wealthiest country, but our infant mortality rate is below that of 26 other developed countries. It's more than double the rate of countries like Finland, Portugal, Japan, and Sweden.
And yes, as of 2009 at least, more Americans believe in angels than in climate change or evolution.
So, no. By any objective measure, America is not "the greatest country in the world" anymore.
But it can be.
What do you think?
How can we turn this around?
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