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to think America is not the greatest country in the world

(194 Posts)
Phacelia Wed 05-Dec-12 16:44:41

I keep reading on blogs, in blog comments, on news pages, on fora, everywhere, about how America is the greatest country in the world. As in 'I can't believe this could happen here in America, we're supposed to be the greatest country in the world,' or 'I'm totally against this, we're the greatest country in the world.'

It utterly pisses me off.

I do think America is a great country. There are many fantastic, wonderful things about it and the times I've visited I've found a lot to like and met some wonderful people. But I think it is extraordinarily arrogant that so many Americans spout such nonsense online. I've never seen people of other nationalities write such garbage. I can't understand why I find it so inflammatory, except that I think it's ignorant (all countries have many great aspects to them, lots of people would hate to live in America, despite it's positive attributes, lots of people have died at the hands of Americans over the past 50 years, in terrible ways, and I wonder how their families/friends must feel reading stuff like that, plus I thought that America had gained some humility after 9/11 and realised that lots of people in fact dislike their government for very good reasons).

To be fair it usually seems to be right wing/Republican (often very religious) people who say it. (maybe I'm just more pissed that such people exist, with their homophobia, anti-abortion crap and religious fundamentalism which I think does such damage) I know lots of Americans wouldn't dare say something like that. But still, AIBU to think that it's unbelievably tacky and arrogant to write things like that online and that it isn't true? The latest version I've seen is on a blog about the UN disability rights treaty, which has been rejected with some commenters on blogs saying 'why does the greatest country in the world need other people telling us what to do? This treaty will lead to the government rounding up disabled people and exterminating them, blah, blah, blah.'

/end rant.

TerrariaMum Wed 05-Dec-12 17:50:26

I think 'the greatest country in the world' is a personal thing. For example, I'm American but I emigrated(pedants, is that right? You emigrate from somewhere and immigrate to somewhere?) from there to the UK. Obviously, I don't think the States is the greatest country in the world. I don't think the UK is the greatest country in the world either, but I do think that it is the greatest country in the world for me. I've never been so happy as I have been living here.

So maybe some Americans who say that feel the way I do about the UK. Does that make any sense?

Phacelia Wed 05-Dec-12 17:51:13

MissCellania, love it! And it's so true.

SucksToBeMe Wed 05-Dec-12 17:54:57

forbidden We had searched for my grandfather for 20+ years, eventually we found a ex FBI Private investigator who found him in March 09, unfortunately he had passed away in February 09. Which meant we were unable to apply for citizenship. But I do agree with the essence of this thread, they can be a bit <ahem> entitled. grin

HeartsTrumpDiamonds Wed 05-Dec-12 17:55:17

They are indoctrinated with it from such a young age, I don't even think they realise that there might be another point of view. I remember living in Amsterdam and a young American guy was literally speechless at the new (for him) thought that we might quite like being English, or Dutch, or Canadian, or whatever!

I've heard the theory that it comes from the way America was founded - people escaping from religious persecution, lack of freedom and abject poverty for "a better life", able to set up a republic at a time when there were no (few?) others, giving the common man let's ignore the woman thing the ability to consent to be governed, rather than ruled over by a king or queen, and propogating the revolutionary idea at the time that all men are created equal, that they are endowed "with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Very different to other countries at the time - very different to certain countries now - and I can see how those ideals could have propogated the idea that America is the Greatest.

GreenEggsAndNichts Wed 05-Dec-12 18:00:28

The more I travel and live abroad, the more I realise the USA is pretty great, but it also has massive failings, as well. I'd never claim that it was the best country in the world. It's alright, though. My German DH is very open to us moving there. The topic comes up every time we visit my family. smile But then it's tempered when he sees/hears some of the stuff the Tea Party types spew forth.

I can't blame politicians who say it, though. It's a game they have to play. There's no way Obama could get away with not saying it, with his political opponents being so fervently pro-USA. He's spent years with them breathing down his neck about his birth certificate hmm and his religion hmm that for him to not say it would probably be notable. I think he's been under more pressure than previous presidents to do so, actually, because of those reasons. (not that I want to hijack the thread with boring politics!)

EverlongLovesHerChristmasRobin Wed 05-Dec-12 18:03:31

There's no best country.

America is pretty close though imho obv.

MissCellania Wed 05-Dec-12 18:05:41

The first settlers weren't escaping religious persecution at all, thats another American myth. The pilgrims were escaping not being able to persecute others! They were separatists, some of who were convicted of treason.

thebody Wed 05-Dec-12 18:06:22

No country has the holy grail.

All have good and bad.

TheCrackFox Wed 05-Dec-12 18:22:01


I worked there for 6 months and had a great time and found that pretty much all people there are lovely. However, they are brainwashed from birth that there country is the greatest and everyone must be desperate to emigrate there.

designerbaby Wed 05-Dec-12 18:22:21

But also, if I'm honest, I secretly think the UK is the greatest country in the world. (Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary...).

Difference is, I wouldn't go around saying it out loud.

But that's because I'm British. And it's another thing which makes us the greatest country in the world. The fact that we'd never say so...

DH isn't British, and would quite like to live in the states – or anywhere else generally. He is beginning to realise it would take something quite drastic for that to happen. He had no idea how wedded I am to the uk.

Which is where my point above becomes a bit of a problem.

He also didn't realise that while I, as a Brit, am allowed to slag of the UK to my hearts content, he, as a non Brit, isn't.



<Waves Union Jack while singing Jerusalem...>

CheerfulYank Wed 05-Dec-12 18:26:44

YANBU I suppose. I'm American and I adore it, and wouldn't want to live anywhere else, though I'd really like to travel.

But I don't think there really is a "greatest country". Sweden, etc, are touted as the best places to live, but then I read things and think "Oh no, wouldn't want to live there!" Different strokes and all.

expatinscotland Wed 05-Dec-12 18:27:22

This is all you have to be pissed off at in life? Get a grip.

GreenEggsAndNichts Wed 05-Dec-12 18:29:07

Yes but, as Americans, we're meant to be loud and blustery, just as you're meant to be reserved. grin I don't think I could pull of a "it's the best country in the world" with a straight face, but I've been known to bandy about an ironic "USA USA USA" just to wind people up.

It grates because it's a big country and dominates so much of world politics, economics, etc. If Danish people were going around saying Denmark is the best country in the world (which they totally do grin You just can't understand them) people wouldn't be as bothered.

As a finishing touch, god created the Dutch.


Every country does it. It's just that we're so damned loud about it.

GreenEggsAndNichts Wed 05-Dec-12 18:29:39

don't think I could pull off , sigh.

IslaValargeone Wed 05-Dec-12 18:31:13

I think it's great that they have such a pride and a feeling of positivity and belonging about their country.
You don't really get that here, we maybe had it during the Olympics but it's never ongoing.

XiaoxiongMerrilyOnHigh Wed 05-Dec-12 18:36:04

MissCellania not a complete myth - depends if you're talking about separating Puritans like William Brewster or non-separating Puritans like John Winthrop wink

GreenEggs totally agree about the politics driving this. Unfortunately it also means that real problems are not grappled with because acknowledging that maybe someone else does something better goes against the exceptionalism claim.

The irony is when you get into state exceptionalism. My dad works with a US senator from Montana. He is a Montana exceptionalist and really seems to genuinely believe Montana is the best state in the union by every possible measure confused And don't get my cousins New Yorkers'd think the world ends somewhere west of Jersey and east of the North Fork.

MissCellania Wed 05-Dec-12 18:36:45

I don't mind the greatest country in the world stuff much, its patriotic and what have you, but the "leader of the free world" schtick is just arrogant and patronising. Really grates.

CheerfulYank Wed 05-Dec-12 18:37:28

That senator is ridiculous Xiao...everyone knows it's Minnesota. grin

Phacelia Wed 05-Dec-12 18:37:42

Now where on earth did I say that Expat? I cannot see a single place on this thread where I've written that this is all I have to be pissed off about. Can one not have an online conversation about something which irritates one without a)being told to get a grip and b)people assuming it's a major issue in one's life? The mind boggles.

I am merely commenting on something which has riled/interested me, that's all. And it's been interesting to read the responses.

Back to the thread, I remember Zadie Smith wrote the most erudite piece on just this subject, wish I could find it online.

XiaoxiongMerrilyOnHigh Wed 05-Dec-12 18:43:55

Isla I think the point is that the claims of exceptionalism are the ugly flipside of that positivity. It's hard to be relentlessly positive about your country and everything in it, and also be able to honestly assess real problems and fix them.

The UK has the opposite problem - the culture of national whinging means that when there are things that really are good and worth celebrating, they're not always recognised as such and replicated around the country. And unfortunately the myth of things being broken/creaking at the seams/a bit crap means that zealous well meaning people and politicians tinker and reorganise and revamp and relaunch things (read: the NHS, school governance, GCSE marking, the planning system etc etc) that may have been working pretty well beforehand and didn't really need significant changes.

(As a dual citizen I feel able to opine on both sides of the pond!)

IslaValargeone Wed 05-Dec-12 18:49:02

Yes, I am sure you are right Xiaoxiong.

Phacelia Wed 05-Dec-12 18:50:48

I found it! Article

In the last paragraph she writes, 'I even hope that he will find himself in agreement with George Bernard Shaw when he declared, “Patriotism is, fundamentally, a conviction that a particular country is the best in the world because you were born in it.” But that may be an audacious hope too far. We’ll see if Obama’s lifelong vocal flexibility will enable him to say proudly with one voice “I love my country” while saying with another voice “It is a country, like other countries.” I hope so' It's a long article but beautifully written so well worth a read, although it's strange going back to when Obama had just got in.

Xiao, I think we could be more confident in our positive attributes sometimes. But I find it endearing that we're so down on ourselves in that I think it drives us as a country to improve things. But give me a dose of that sunny 'we're great' attitude the Americans have just ever so occasionally (like at the Olympics) and I'm happy.

claraschu Wed 05-Dec-12 18:52:11

This is bizarre.

I am American, living in England. I know quite a few Americans who tell people in Europe they are Canadian, because they are embarrassed to be American, and are convinced that all Europeans are repulsed by Americans.

My children, with their mid-Atlantic accents, find that Americans love them because they think they are English. Meanwhile, English people sneer at them because they think they are American.

In my experience, Americans are VERY impressed and excited by English people, and English people think Americans are stupid and overweight. The people I know who feel the most superior tend to be French.

Phacelia Wed 05-Dec-12 18:58:12

"The people I know who feel the most superior tend to be French" That made me grin

Every time I've travelled to the States I have found (most)Americans to be incredibly warm and nurturing. I've met my fair share of stereotypical American tourists outside of the States too though.

I did have one experience (back when Iraq was about to be invaded) of staying in a hostel where an American and Canadian had a huge row about how he should be ashamed to admit to being American which was pretty embarrassing to watch; there was some major anti-Americanism floating around at the time. Thankfully it seems to have calmed down (I think in large part when Obama came to power). Tea Party/Republican people in general scare the bejeesus out of me though.

Angelico Wed 05-Dec-12 18:58:17

YANBU at all. DH and I have had this conversation recently because he has family in USA. It is REALLY tough being poor there - the safety net is short term and has gaping holes in it if you hit tough times. And the whole medical insurance thing is horrendous. I genuinely can't understand how Americans don't get how amazing free healthcare is, that EVERYONE has access to healthcare for as long as they need it. And of course people can still pay and go private if they want. I just watched Americans ranting against universal healthcare and thought, "How could you be so brainwashed?" sad

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