Having spent part of my early life in the United States, and having visited there with regularity over the years, I’ve accumulated more than enough anecdotal wherewithal to conclude that the bulk of Americans believe their country is the greatest nation in the world and an absolutely ideal place in which to live.
You could argue, I guess, that such a blinders-on view is not dissimilar from that held by the proud citizens of other countries, but the Americans display their myopic view with a fervour unparalleled in the free world, and one that flies in the face of a barrage of almost weekly evidence that their country, the “land of the free and the home of the brave,” has become, in so many ways, a place of horror, the face of ugliness.
In any other country in the developed world, for example, those recent, hideous murders of youngsters in Texas would be considered a nightmarish aberration. But, in the United States, the gut-wrenching slaughter at Uvalde Elementary School was merely the latest mass homicide in that country.
It’s as if–forgive this ostensibly frivolous, perhaps insensitive thought–a weekly reality television program of mass killings was being produced in the States.
In fact, the United States has attained the notoriety of leading the world in mass killings, an ignominious status that accompanies its equally shameful position of having the most serial killers on earth.
But, hey, it’s the greatest country in the world.
So great that millions of its residents routinely, and unabashedly, rise as one after each mass shooting to defend the “God-given” right of all Americans to “bear arms”, citing, like robotic children in a catechism class, the precedent of laws enacted when their forefathers carried muskets, not AK-47s, and took longer to load their weapons than it did to smoke a pipe-load of tobacco.
So great that even those politicians philosophically opposed to their country’s lenient gun laws rant and roar after a killing spree shocks the world, but ultimately acquire the spine of a jellyfish when they find themselves going head to head with the National Rifle Association. Political expediency and survival invariably trumps decency and righteousness.
It’s not just the American penchant for killing innocents and maintaining archaic gun laws that have the rest of the world wondering about the integrity of much of the U.S. citizenry, and their claims of “greatness”: History, you can safely say, will never forget that it was America that managed to turn a vacuous, misogynistic, racist idiot into the most powerful person in the world for four years.
Donald Trump, an inarticulate reality show host, became president of the “greatest country in the world”, and, as we’ve been hearing in recent weeks during congressional hearings that have rivalled the drama of the Watergate proceedings, displayed the heavy-handedness of a dictator while trying to overturn his losing effort for a second term of office.
But, as he did with the gun lobbyists, Trump did manage to earn the support of the Christian Right while in power by stacking the invincible Supreme Court with conservative dogmatists who ultimately did his bidding and destroyed the country’s abortion laws, thus eliminating the hard-fought rights of women to have the ultimate say in terminating pregnancy.
And if you’re gay in the great country of America, you’d better keep a close eye on that same court of men and women who seem determined to return the United States to an ultra-conservative, 1950s, “Father Knows Best” society, an era when same-sex unions were considered the devil’s work.
Relief may have been naively in sight for rational-thinking Americans when Trump was turfed from office, but now the U.S. has as its leader an old man who doesn’t know at times whether he’s punched or bored, a stumbling, bumbling politician whose diminishing popularity might pave the way for the ascension to the presidency of another Trump-like character, if not Trump himself.
But no matter what happens during the next few years in the United States — whether it be the election of a nincompoop as president, court rulings that reinforce the country’s inequality, mass shootings or the emergence of another serial killer or the homicide by cops of still another unarmed Black man — there will always be this claim by much of America that it is the greatest country in the world.
That kind of hypocrisy, it could be argued, is nothing new.
There were even traces of such pretense during the formative days of the United States, when, for instance, Thomas Jefferson was writing those famous words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.”
It was the same Thomas Jefferson who owned slaves until the day he died.