I just finished watching the first episode of “The Newsroom,” which is an HBO original series about a somewhat asinine (yet likable) news anchor named Will McAvoy. Will, played by Jeff Daniels, had allowed himself to become one of those Anderson Cooper types who nobody really seems to dislike… Until he did this, within the first 9 minutes of the show:
College Girl: What makes America the greatest country in the world?
*Some talking-head crap responses from all involved, and then the moderator (professor) tells Will that he wants a “real human moment.”
Will McAvoy: “It’s not the greatest country in the world professor, that’s my answer.”
Professor: “You’re saying…”
Professor: “Let’s talk about…”
*Turns to female news-anchor to his right*
“Sharron, the NEA is a loser. Yeah, it accounts for a penny out of our paycheck, but he gets to hit you with it any time he wants. It doesn’t cost money, it costs votes; it costs air-time, column inches. You know why people don’t like Liberals? Because they lose. If Liberals are so fucking smart, how come they lose so God damn always.”
Will (turning to face Conservative Anchor): “And with a straight face, you’re going to tell students that America is so star-spangled awesome that we’re the only ones in the world that have freedom? Canada has freedom. Japan has freedom. The U.K., France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Australia, BELGIUM has freedom. Two hundred and seven sovereign states in the world, like a hundred and eighty of them have freedom.”
Will (turns to student asking the question): “And yeah, you, sorority girl. Just in case you accidentally wander into a voting booth one day, there’s some things you should know; and one of them is there’s absolutely no evidence to support that we’re the greatest country in the world. We’re seventh in literacy, twenty seventh in math, twenty second in science, fourty 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, none the less, 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 don’t know 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 it, 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 scare so easily.
We were able to be all these things, and do all these things because we were informed. By great men, men who were revered.
The first step to solving any problem is recognizing there is one. America is not the greatest country in the world any more.”
Now, if you didn’t want to read all of that, that’s OK. We can move on to my commentary without you knowing anything at all about what I’m trying to say…
This is one of those subjects that gets people angry, and then they react brashly, as if someone has just come in and raped their mom, or killed the dog with a blazing hot fire-poker. Everyone has a lot of things to say, while they have no idea what the facts are.
We live in a country where more people would fail a basic geography test, of their own state, than would actually be able to accurately tell you what our rights happen to be. This is not the symptom of being the greatest country on Earth, it’s a symptom of having lost that spot, but not the attitude that goes with it. Do you think that the Chinese people are standing about wondering what some gold-digger in Beverly Hills is doing? No. They are working their asses off to continue building the world’s NEXT greatest country. I wish them all the best, honestly. I just hope they learn from our mistakes and don’t let it all drop out from under them after they’ve had it for a decade or two.
I’m not going to go on about the show’s writer, because you have other blogs for that. What I am going to do, is recommend you watch the first ten minutes of this show while it’s available here on YouTube. It’s not available in all parts of the world, but if you’re clever with Google, you can get a copy that works. It doesn’t matter that it’s a TV show, or that it’s written by a very clever (if not preachy) Hollywood type. What matters, is that it’s one hundred percent, completely, without argument…
Can we face this? Can we admit it? Can we fix it?
I think we can, but we have to care less about Hollywood than we do about Washington. When I say Washington, I mean D.C., not the state where petulant teen-dramas about stupid sparkly vampires get filmed.
Too much? I think not.
- What Makes America the Greatest Country in the World? (neatorama.com)