Why the U.S. is not the greatest country

If you were to go on YouTube and search “Why America isn’t the greatest country in the world anymore” you would find a clip from the TV series “The Newsroom.” In the video, a speaker says, “We [America] 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 26 countries combined, 25 of which are allies.”

This video is five years old, and yet according to Forbes, as of 2016 the United States  still has the highest incarceration rate, with one third of Americans adult having a criminal record, and still leads with the highest military expenditures of $611 billion. China, who comes in second in military expenditures, totals at $215 billion.

The United States is also a world leader in the amount of privately owned guns, the number of merchandise imports, the worst current account balance, largest external debt, and the most aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, destroyers, and cruisers in operation.

Yes, it is true, the United States leads the world in many categories, but not all of these warrant undisputed admiration.

The United States is not the worst country in the world, or even a bad country, but there are numerous categories in which the United States has fallen behind in, and this should not be getting overlooked. At one point in history, perhaps the United States was a nation other countries aspired to emulate. Today, it is other countries stepping up to the plate and working to improve major global issues within their own borders.

The title of “Greatest Country in the World”, if one should even be given out,  must be earned through consistent effort to improve in all respects. For the United States to give itself this title is unjustified when we have suppressed minorities, rejected integration, been overtly sexist and racist, and decimated far too many environments.

While progress has been made, these problems are still prevalent in our society today. Generations of American history have been plagued by controversy over minority rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and only now does society appear to be accepting more progressive standards.

Same-sex marriage legalized in the United States only two years ago, this joyous day for marked for millions of Americans a historic turning point in American culture. Yet even important victories are short lived because for every step forward we take three steps back. For every voice that is given the right to speak, thousands more rise up to preach about the “way things used to be.”

Countries such as Spain, Canada, and Belgium legalized same-sex marriage over ten years before the United States did, hundreds of countries joined the Paris Climate Change Agreement while our President opted out, and according to the World Economic Forum’s 2016 data, the United States ranks 45 in the Global Gender Gap Report.

While other countries progress socially, economically, and politically, our government struggles to pass any policy, much less come forward with a clear message on many key issues.

Remarkably, many Americans still possess the ill-conceived notion that America is a world leader when it comes to progressivism, and it is this presumption that is holding us back. For a nation to be great, it needs strong citizens who are willing fighting for equality, environmental preservation, and overall welfare for all people.

In the United States we are fortunate enough to have free speech, and with this right comes the responsibility to fight for whose voices aren’t being heard. No country is perfect, but getting closer and closer to perfection is what every nation should strive for, and America is not exempt from this.