Now, I suppose you might be asking why someone would take umbrage over the things a television show says. Normally I would agree, but this alleged political honesty has been shared as the gospel truth with no one offering a rebuttal. I aim to change that.
First off, the stereotypical college chick asking why are we just so, like, awesome? And the 2 people that answered first? Both make half points. Diversity and freedom mentioned are valid points made poorly. More people immigrate to the United States than every other nation (which actually plays in to my latter points) because there is great opportunity here, more so than most other nations. It is also true that we are not the only country with any degree of freedom, but some freedom doesn't equate to more, nor are we wholly free.
As for the retort from Jeff Daniels' character? This is where the parsing begins...
- Literacy rate. The countries higher than the US just coincidentally happen to be monochromatic, meaning that they are one people. This is where immigration and culture come in to play. When a good chunk of the people coming to your country cannot read or write their own language, what makes you think that they will be proficient in a foreign tongue? We can't educate the world's illiterate? Show me a country that can.
- Math and Science scores. Again, culture plays a role. Some subcultures in the US hold education in the highest regard, while others believe education is meaningless. Then there is the matter of who is tested, let alone educated. Many countries do not educate all children. In fact, the children that actually get tested are often the best of the nation's students. In the US, public education groups all students, best and worst, on the same general path, with gifted students being able to take higher level classes if offered. In Germany, for instance, schooling is broken up in different groups based on intellectual talent. Those gifted enough will be put on the higher track, while those not suited for collegiate education go to more labor oriented schools.
- Life Expectancy. Another half truth, tied again to culture and immigration. Ever notice how different cats have different characteristics? Some are bigger, some smaller, some with flat faces, some with giant paws, etc. The same holds true for people. Perhaps not as striking as flattened faces or giant feet, but nevertheless, the differences are there. It's not a value judgement, it just is. Japan is a xenophobic country made up nearly entirely made up of Japanese people, who follow Japanese eating habits, and health habits in general. Do you not think that a country made up of 50% Japanese and 50% residents of Central African Republic (1st and last in life expectancy) would be considered an awful nation based on the character's use of life expectancy as measure of how good a nation is? So why, when a country welcomes those from many different lands with different genetic conditions, different ailments, different health habits, would that country be denigrated for it?
- Infant Mortality. This one bugs me most of all because it is at best a half truth and at worst, a flat out lie. According to the CIA World Factbook, the United States is 50th in infant mortality, not 178th. Countries measure what constitutes a live birth differently, let alone what constitutes infant mortality. Some, like the US count any sign of independent life, be it a spasm, a breath, a squeak, at any weight, or gestation period as a live birth and a candidate for infant mortality. Countries like Japan and many EU nations only count breathing as life, and therefore have lower infant mortality rates but higher perinatal mortality rates. But that wouldn't fit the narrative, now would it? Let me be clear, the United States is the best at keeping little, unhealthy babies alive when they absolutely shouldn't be. But hey, remember that it is a fault of ours that we cannot prolong the lives of these poor, sick babies.
- Median Household Income. This is a stat that is utterly meaningless unless you include cost of living. There are 18 counties in California with MHI of over $60k, while there are just 3 counties in Kansas over $60k. 16 of those CA counties have MHI greater than all but one county in Kansas, and 7 counties outrank the top Kansas county. My point? It costs different amounts to live in Marin County, California than it does in Johnson County, Kansas, why would it not matter in the rest of the world?
- Labor Force. Umm...what? I'm not entirely sure what I'm to take from this. Again, according to the CIA World Factbook, the US is 4th, behind China, India, and the EU. The top 2 have more people in the labor force than the US has people, period. The third has 200 million more total people than the United States. So, tell me again how this is something wrong with the United States?
- Exports. This is a statistic that we could not control, unless we utilize a statistic that is later reviled. Few seem to understand that for roughly 60 years, the rest of the world was in ruin and rebuilding, while the US was the untouched economic and manufacturing powerhouse of the world. So the rest of the world has caught up and a couple passed us? Explain how that's a problem, especially when you're about to make a claim that our military is one of our negative leaders...
- Incarceration. The obvious implication/assumption is that most, if not all of those incarcerated in the US were jailed unjustly, or via draconian drug laws that put cancer patients in jail. The simple fact is that there are many many people in this country that commit crimes and are sent to prison. No mention is made of sentencing discrepancies or secrecy of other countries. We don't actually know how many people are imprisoned in China, nor how many are simply put to death for being dissidents. We'll talk all day about how, like, a bunch of people get thrown in jail for 30 years for smoking a joint, but we won't talk about the sentence Anders Brevik was given a 21 year sentence for the murder of nearly 100 people in Norway. Do you not think that sentencing is less strict in Europe than it is in the US?
- "Number of adults who believe angels are real." This one might be my favorite. It is entirely prejudicial, foisting lunacy on not just religious people, but Christians in particular. Is it that religion as a whole is bad? Can't be, because there are more Buddhists in China than there are people in the US, there are about as many Hindus in India as there are people in the US and EU combined, there are about as many Muslims in Indonesia as there are Christians in the US. Apparently 3 America leading categories sounded better than 2, since this is nothing more than a hateful jab at Christianity.
- Defense Spending. Actually, I can't say much against this.
- We stood up for what was right. This coming on the heels of how we shouldn't spend so much on our military, especially when any natural disaster hits somewhere in the world, the first responder is usually an American aircraft carrier. Perhaps we should invade countries for moral reasons, even though you just got done lecturing us about how we shouldn't have a giant military.
- Laws and Morality. Show me a law enacted for moral reasons and I'll show you a law enacted to control people. Helmet laws, seat belt laws, soda bans, fast food bans, all these were passed with the greatest of intentions, but restrict how people can live their lives. Ever hear about how the road to Hell is paved with good intentions? Morality and the law do not mix.
- Waged wars on poverty, not poor people. What. The. Fuck? What does that even mean? In what sense do we war against poor people? The so-called war on poverty has spent billions of dollars yet has not yielded that which the market does. This is the very definition of 'laughable.'
- Sacrifice. Another odd juxtaposition, considering that you've just implied that we must spend our tax dollars on people who will not care for themselves. That I should sacrifice while others live off my dime.
- Caring about our neighbors. Where do you live that people don't care about their neighbors? Living in big urban areas like New York and California will cloud your vision of how people behave. In fact, most of the country actually does care about their neighbors, especially since they are involved in their community and *gasp* their awful church.
- Chest Beating. We never had to as a nation because no one would dare stand up to us, and you either think that was justified or not.
- Building great, big things. This is where your moral laws have gotten us. The Empire State Building was built in a year, during the Depression. Yet various environmental and labor laws have kept giant projects from even getting off the ground for moral reasons.
- Technological Advances, I don't know what you want. Many of the people 'filming' you are doing so with a mini computer in their hands. Are you one of those people that want flying cars, or what?
- Exploring the Universe. Explain to me how we're not doing this? Ever hear of the Curiosity?
- Curing Disease. Here I somewhat agree. There has been a greater focus on treating disease, rather than curing them, even though the US is doing more around the world to eradicate Polio and fighting AIDS than every other country.
- Cultivating the world's best artists and greatest economy. Again, I'm not even sure what the complaint is. That we aren't the greatest economy and we don't have the world's greatest artists here? Sorry, there's really nothing I can do on that front.
- We reached for the stars. Please see 'Exploring the Universe.'
- Acting like Men. The same people who pass laws governing our daily lives pass laws punishing male behavior.
- Intelligence. Here's another one I can agree with. We pick the person we'd more like to have a beer with, rather than who would best run the country.
- We are the Last Election Cycle. Odds are you'd be upset no matter how we identified ourselves. You'd call it beating our chest if we identified as Americans or believing that angels are real while identifying ourselves by our faith.
- We didn't scare so easy. What?
Hows about instead of getting your political jollies from a television show, you do a little research of your own.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'll be getting off my soapbox.