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America the not-so-great?

Is America really "the best country in the world", as so many people mindlessly repeat? I've never really understood what that was supposed to mean -- best by what measure, exactly? Rorschach offers some data that might cast doubt upon the status of the U.S. as top dog. Highlights include:
• The United States is 49th in the world in literacy (The New York Times, Dec. 12, 2004).
• The United States ranked 28th out of 40 countries in mathematical literacy (NYT, Dec. 12, 2004).
• The World Health Organization "ranked the countries of the world in terms of overall health performance, and the U.S. [was] ... 37th." In the fairness of health care, we're 54th.

And my personal favorite:

• Lack of health insurance coverage causes 18,000 unnecessary American deaths a year. (That's six times the number of people killed on 9/11.)

(Tell me again why "fighting terrorism" is such a priority?)

These are important facts to recognize. The myth of American exceptionalism is a very dangerous one, and provides cover for whatever brutality U.S. leaders wish to engage in. The truth about the invasion of Iraq --that it was, without question, a war crime-- will never be heard in the mainstream U.S. press, not because of any grand conspiracy, but because it conflicts with what for so many is an axiomatic belief: that the U.S. is a force for good in the world, indeed is a blessing bestowed upon the world by the Almighty. Unfortunately, like so many other axiomatic beliefs, this is false.

Sinclair Lewis said, "Intellectually I know that America is no better than any other country; emotionally I know she is better than every other country." Well, maybe it's time to start paying a little less attention to our hearts and a little more to our heads. People are dying because of our unwillingness to look at the actions of the U.S. government objectively, rationally, intellectually. Until we abandon the childish notion of the U.S. as the "good guy" nation of the world, its leaders will continue to do evil in the name of the American people. And the people will continue to be ignorant of the true nature of military adventures like the invasion of Iraq, so long as they are cloaked in the rhetoric of democracy, freedom, and Americanism.

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