“American exceptionalism” is best defined as the belief that America’s values, political system, and history are unique among all other nations and worthy of universal admiration. Mostly employed by conservative Republicans, the phrase has been used as a bludgeon against any American who would dare think otherwise. Those not buying into this belief have been labeled unpatriotic; traitors to their country.
Unfortunately, today’s “American exceptionalism” is best defined in a negative sense. Americans are “exceptionally” behind other developed countries in many key metrics that define an advanced society. Let’s take a look:
Americans are “exceptionally” violent – As recently observed by President Obama, gun violence is much worse in the US than other advanced countries. Per population, we kill each other with guns at a rate 297x more than Japan, 49x more than France, 33x more than Israel.
Americans are “exceptionally” Stone Age – In a Michigan State University survey, only 14 percent of American adults thought that evolution was “definitely true,” while about a third firmly rejected the idea. In European countries, including Denmark, Sweden, and France, more than 80 percent of adults surveyed said they accepted the concept of evolution.
Americans suffer “exceptional” poverty -The United States ranks near the bottom of the pack of wealthy nations on the measure of child poverty, according to a recent UNICEF report. Nearly one third of U.S. children live in households with an income below 60 percent of the national median income. With 32.2 percent of children living below this line, the U.S. ranks 36th out of the 41 wealthy countries included in the UNICEF report.
Americans suffer “exceptional” income inequality – The U.S. is nearly the most wealth-unequal country in the world, according to Global Wealth Report 2013. Out of 141 countries, the U.S. has the 4th-highest degree of wealth inequality, trailing only Russia, Ukraine, and Lebanon.
Americans are “exceptionally” less educated – United States is ranked 12th among the world’s nations in the proportion of people between the ages of 25 and 34 who have college degrees. A recent International Student Assessment (PISA) showed that teenagers in the U.S. slipped from 25th to 31st in math since 2009; from 20th to 24th in science; and from 11th to 21st in reading, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Americans have “exceptionally” less health insurance – The United States is the only major country that doesn’t guarantee the right of health care to its citizens. The World Health Organization ranked American health care 37th in the world, and in a recent study, the Commonwealth Fund ranked America’s health care system last on the basis of 21 indicative factors.
Perhaps Michael Moore best summed up “American exceptionalism”:
“This concept of American exceptionalism is the death of us. We know personally it does none of us any good walking around going “Yeah! Yeah!” That’s not the path to self-improvement. I mean, you can like yourself, and I do. I love the fact that I’m an American. I love this country. I love everything about what it means. But I also embrace the other side of it, and in doing so, it’s incumbent upon me as a citizen to want to help fix it.”
USA! USA! USA!
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