What Makes America the Greatest Country in the World?

What Makes America the Greatest Country in the World? July 4, 2012

It’s not.  But…

Jeff Daniels’ character, news anchor Will McAvoy, comes off as something of a pompous jerk and a sellout to lucrative journalistic mediocrity in the pilot episode of The Newsroom. And his response to this question from a college student isn’t perfect: it’s profanity-ridden and blunt to the point of rudeness, and when he suddenly waxes nostalgic about a golden age when we purportedly were the greatest country in the world, it’s outright naive. But for all that, with the way he summarily nails the left and the right before proceeding to explode the exceptionalist myth with a barrage of statistics, this tirade is pretty priceless.



I’ll stop raining on everybody’s Fourth of July parade now, really.  Just remember to keep things in perspective while you’re enjoying the fireworks.

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  • Carl Diederichs

    In my homilies I will ask if we are American Catholics or Catholic Americans. Unfortunately we have been sucked into American Exceptionalism as most everyone else. I wish it were raining!

    • Julia Smucker

      Great question to be asking. We always need to remember where our highest loyalty is.

      • Jimmy Mac

        Our highest loyalty is to neither America nor the Catholic Church. It is to God, who is neither.

        • Julia Smucker

          Or more appropriately, it’s to the Kingdom of God, not just as individuals but as “citizens with the saints” in a catholicity that transcends national borders.

        • Amen!

  • I will ask if we are American Catholics or Catholic Americans.

    It’s funny, this question is precisely what Muslims in America are struggling to ask and answer? Depending on where one places the hyphen or orders the wording, one’s authenticity may just be at stake.

    Thanks for posting.

  • Anne

    The part about how we WERE the greatest country in the world back when IS mostly hokum, but he’s right that the American people were better informed in the past. That was because we had a media that thought reporting national and international news was its job. And Americans thought theirs was to read and listen. That had always been what journalists did, and Americans had paid attention. Then, somebody went out and proved that broadcast networks are corporations too, my friend. When making profits is your first priority, you’re not going to waste time explaining health care bills and what’s happening in Russia when rebroadcasting snippets of gossip from Hollywood gets you twice the ratings. Did people complain? Would Americans prefer more about Putin and less about TomKat’s divorce? We know the answer…which goes a long way toward explaining why America isn’t really as great as it tells itself it is either.

  • One way to determine which country is the greatest in the world would be to look at which country most people would want to move to. By that standard America is by far the greatest country in the world.

    • Julia Smucker

      Ironically, though, the way America treats its immigrants leaves much to be desired.

    • Less than a quarter of the world’s wanna-be immigrants would choose to come here. If America is “by far the greatest country in the world”, then why do not nearly all of them want to come here? What these numbers show is that various people have various reasons for choosing the nations to which they’d prefer to emigrate. America is clearly NOT considered to be “by far the greatest country in the world” by 77% of those people who would hope to emigrate.