Jamie Willey, Blog Entry #1

McAvoy presents us with an assertion that the US is not the greatest country in the world, but how is greatness measured?  If greatness is measured in GDP, then we are the greatest country in the world by a significant margin (although we rank 6th when we divide that number by our population) We are unmatched in sheer military potential as well, which was achieved through the military spending he mentioned, and those two facts are the primary reasons why people are correct when they refer to the US as “the world’s only superpower.”

Do not mistake these words as indicative of any jingoistic sentiments on my part; I type them with the words of Winston Churchill in mind: “Good and great are seldom the same man.”  In my mind, the qualities of “good” and “great” are very separate, occasionally to the point of being antithetical, and this monologue seems conflate the two.  I went searching for a point in time where the US as a whole (granted, the only entity I can actually observe as acting on the part of the US as a whole is the US Government, and it is flawed to claim that any government perfectly represents its citizens) acted in a moral way for moral reasons, and came up empty.  the US used to pass laws for moral reasons, then why was legislation protecting workers’ right arise only after the assassination of a pro-management president who was bankrolled by big business?  One could say that that is too early in US history, and point to the Government attempts to mitigate the Great Depression by providing jobs via construction projects and other programs, but those were not moral.  Rather, they were a reaction to the anger over waning government involvement in the economy following the Great War, and the same government was willing to force Japanese-Americans into internment camps on mere suspicion.  Looking past this to the Cold War, we see the flagrant oppression of communists and socialists, violating numerous constitutional and human rights in the name of “defending liberty”.  This picture only gets uglier when we look at our wars.  If we went to war for moral reasons, why did we wait until 1917 to become involved with WWI or until 1941 to join WWII?  Moving on from the fact that four of the most horrific air raids in history (Dresden, Tokyo, Nagasaki, Hiroshima) were perpetrated by the US against Germany and Japan to our various actions during the Cold War, which usually involved supplying right-wing extremists with materiel to retard or reverse the spread of communism or, in one case in particular, selling materiel to right-wing extremists in order to finance the aforementioned supplying of other extremists.

 I suppose the point of dredging up all that was to say that the US has never acted with purely good intentions.  I do not mean to convey that the darker parts of our history discount all the good that the US and its citizens have done for the world.  After all, it was an American who created the polio vaccine; it was an American who first set foot on the moon, and it was an American-funded project which brought about the internet.  We are not, have never been, nor should aspire to be the proverbial “city on a hill”; we need to accept that we are human, and as such our mistakes must be remembered alongside our triumphs.  In this respect, we are no worse or better than we ever were.

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Jane Braswell Entry #1

There have always been political pundits and the worst of the worst Rush Limbaugh-types.  It’s admirable that Jeff Daniel’s character Will AcAlvoy distinguishes himself from these talking heads and remembers that he is a newsman.  Unlike newsmen on Fox News and the like, McAlvoy knows that it’s his job to relate the news, not to provide political commentary.  But in this scene, he was pushed to answer the question of — in his words — a “sorority girl” who asked, “Why do you think we are the greatest county in the world?” After attempts to evade the question with numerous jokes he finally answers that it isn’t, but it could be, which I agree with. However, McAvoy’s character adds that  we used to be the greatest country in the world.

That’s where he lost me. I agree that our country was formed on righteous, moral principles. However, I don’t agree  with his thinking that we once were the greatest nation.  I think that status has always alluded us.  Slavery, labor conditions during the industrial revolution, political corruption, the McCarthy Communist trials, the torture of suspected international terrorists… are all things that have kept us on this slippery slope since 1776.

Erin Herbst, Blog Entry #1

“Actually I don’t really plan on living in the States after college.” 

I tried to say this in the most amiable of tones, hoping it might lead to some friendly family conversation regarding the merits of living oversees, how beautiful Paris is in April, or the importance of experiencing other cultures. Instead, an uncomfortable silence settled around the table. Everyone stared down at their plate of pancakes awkwardly, with the exception of my uncle. He sat rigid, staring me down from across the table. Still chewing, he wiped syrup from the corner of his mouth before asking with genuine befuddlement: “Why the f&!*k would you want to live anywhere else?” 

I wish I could of rattled off the United States’ unflattering facts to my uncle in the same way Will McAvoy does in the opening scene from Newsroom. To me, McAvoy’s statement that America is “seventh in literacy, twenty-seventh in math, twenty-second in science, forty-ninth in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, number four in labor force, and number four in exports” provides quantitative support to the argument that the United States government no longer acts on the interest of the majority of the people it is governing. I was inspired when McAvoy reminisced about a United States where “we [the government] passed and 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 cultivated the world’s greatest artists and the world’s greatest economy. We reached for the stars, and we acted like men. We aspired to intelligence; we didn’t belittle it; it didn’t make us feel inferior.” His recount of how the United States “used to be” portrays a country whose government did not rest upon inflated notions of intellectual and technological superiority, but whose very purpose hinged on bettering the lives of the people it governed, and always aspired to become more and offer more opportunities to its citizens. 

I believe the very reason the United States has fallen from its status as the “greatest country in the world” is because our government finally accepted that title. Our politicians began to “beat their chests” (as McAvoy would refer to it) with claims of freedom and paramountcy, and our society fell into the trap of believing that we were “good enough” as we were. I think McAvoy’s musing that during America’s height as a world power, “we didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election” is incredibly inciteful in the sense that it acknowledges the polarizing effect our liberal and conservative parties have had on lawmaking. I believe one of the primary reasons why people of my and the “sorority girl’s” generation have become disillusioned with United States’ politics is due to the Democratic and Republican parties unwillingness to compromise with each other in order to accomplish larger goals for society. As a result of this dogmatic political reality, issues of educational, health, and minimum wage reform as well as technological and environmental advancement sit stagnant with Congress. 

I would like to hope that someday in the future my feelings will have changed and I will want to stay in the U.S. but in my opinion, and what seems to be the opinion of McAvoy, the United State’s needs to take serious steps towards acknowledging where we fall short, and relinquish the inflexible party allegiances and beliefs that are stunting the pursuit of new knowledge and reform. 

 

Jack Thomas, Entry 1

I agree with what the man said when he questioned the audience as to why America was the greatest country on earth. Every American assumes that America is the best country in the world because we have freedom, but so do plenty of other countries in the world. France and Spain both have freedom, so why are they not considered the best country in the world? It took lots of bravery and courage to say what he said but what he said may have triggered a greater question to what actually makes America the greatest country in the world. What I have to say is that America may be the best country in the world.

Morgan McGlothlin, Entry #1

Americans are brainwashed into believing that we are the greatest country in the world. That our country’s freedom exceeds that of other countries and that we should be held at a higher standard than anyone else. The woman in the clip from Newsroom asks the question, “Why is america the greatest country in the world?” with such certainty; she doesn’t ask, “is our country the greatest country, and why?”

Reflecting on the faults of oneself can be one of the most rewarding experiences, for it can open eyes. Just like McAvoy said, “The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one.”

 

Where does our extreme sense of self pride come from? As said in the clip, “We’re seventh in literacy, twenty-seventh in math, twenty-second in science, forty-ninth in life expectancy, 178th 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.” The categories America come in first place are less than admirable. Sure, nothing is wrong with loving ones country, but there is something wrong with being ignorant to facts. It is more admirable to identify what we are doing wrong, and take strides to start fixing it rather than ignoring our domestic issues and devaluing the progress and importance of other nations.

Eddie Campell, Entry 1

There was something eery about this particular scene from Newsroom: the way the remarks of the pundits swirled around the theater, how the light magnified every person in the room. All the while, Will McAvoy sat isolated and alienated from a room full of people willing to latch onto every word he uttered with a type of dutiful zeal. As far as the audience is shown, this is the kind of arena that McAvoy loathes: a self-gratifying America love fest. As everyone knows, debates are the best when everyone gets to yell but everyone wins because America is the greatest country in the world; so nobody gets hurt by a few unbiased opinions. Yet for whatever reason that stoic McAvoy seems uninterested. How could he do that? How could he not love the seat he’s sitting in? To some viewers, the question is why does he hate America. But McAvoy actually represents an ever growing demographic: the fed up moderates.

In today’s patent polarized media, most every item of news is up for debate. Often times, debate takes priority over news (see CNN’s “Crossfire” for reference). Everything is one way or another, a good thing or a bad thing, liberal or conservative. McAvoy is the speaker of the unheard–or rather the un-hearable. His character gives the unique voice a catharsis of sorts. He shows the viewer how powerful being different can be. Instead of saying America is the greatest because of “freedom and freedom,” he states his own idea and betrays the norm. The shocked and silent crowd that answers his heated rant speaks louder than it sounds. The fact that everyone is so taken aback shows just how deep American politics has plunged into the cynical nether. Newsroom argues, through their depiction, that Americans have lost their ability to focus on issues just as they are. Diversity in political thought is missing. Duty is just another argument. People feel unable to truly speak any opinion that does not fall on one end of the political spectrum.

Personally, I enjoyed this scene. It felt relieving to see a program take the initiative to say what needed to be said. That is, to be truthful and honest in political ideology. Newsroom implies that if we as Americans can put an end to our competitive bureaucracy and admit our flaws and address, we can achieve that superior status. However, someone needs to acknowledge those flaws first. And that is the biggest step.

Bisma Zaman, Blog Entry #1

Best, Greatest, Superior- three words that are commonly used to describe America. To me these words connote that something is better than another. In relation to America and other nations it denotes that there is competition against nations to be the “best”. These words confine us in our own paradigm and detach as part of larger world, which can be a dangerous and harmful way to live.

One of the focal points of this video was when Jenny said, “Can you say why America is the greatest country in the world?” Her question, to me, was the served as one of the central problem to ignorance in today’s world. In trying to prove or to validate that America is the “best” country, she isolates and forgets the other accomplishments of other countries. Small statements like these encourage people to see the world through only one perspective. In attempting to find more reasons why America is the “best” country we are more likely to subordinate the accomplishments of other countries and to be fully absorbed in our own nation. The media, icons, and even political leaders have popularized and justified the adoption of ethnocentric perspectives by promoting and exaggerating the concept of superiority between countries.

As human beings it is necessary to view others not by what country they come or cultural groups they belong to but rather as individual all apart of the human race. The only way to start this process of realization and empathy towards other beings is education. Will McAvoy uses education as a tool says, “America is “7th in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, 3rd in median household income, number 4 in labor force, and number 4 in exports. We lead the world in only 3 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 whom are allies” (The Newsroom-(U.S. TV Series). These statistics though meant to demonstrate that America is not the best country in the world, rather put things into perspective. Education does not mean America is not great, but it fosters more realization that other people and countries exist outside of our paradigm. McAvoy’s comments breaks through the idea of “winning” or being in “competition” between nations, and it opens of a place for us all to get better.

Henry Pendleton- Post #1

Every time I came to visit my grandfather we would always have this conversation about if you could live anywhere during any time period, where would you live. The answer every time would be America.  My grandfather would choose America because, he always backed the United States every time no matter what the situation was.  He has always had a big part in the small town 4th of July parade; mostly driving the convertible that the mayor would sit in the back and wave to all the people that were watching and believing in American ideology and proudly supporting it.

When the lady in the movie put up the sign to the main character writing, “Its not”, but then the next sign said,”But it could be”, in response to the question stated,”In one sentence or less, describe why America is the best country in the world”.  The key point to this is,”It can be”.  Before in my earlier paragraph, my grandfather lives in the small town where he spends his retirement.  This town is small enough where word travels fast by talkative grandmothers and mothers enjoying the sun and their knitting.  The spirit of that small town is what America needs.  Even though we have those awful statistics going for this generation, that spirit and motivation in the American dream by that small town can put us back to the great nation we used to be, the nation that the main character talked about where we stood up like men when we needed to and,”Fight for the impoverished not against them”.  I agreed with Jeff Daniel’s all the way up till when he didn’t say that America could be the greatest country in the world again, and that it couldn’t rise to the top to where we still idolize it today, and that we can be the best.

DALI DONG, BLOG ENTRY #1

‘American is the the greatest country in the world’ stayed in my head for at least 14 years. I would always hear ‘America is the greatest country in the world’ back in China when I was young. Chinese people would compare their country with the United States. I think the reason is that China stands for communism and America stands for capitalism. I saw so many people that worked so hard that they could get the chance to go to America and become an American citizen one day. My dad sent me to American two years ago because that I would get a better future here in America, at least he thinks so. However the longer I stayed inside of America, the better sense I got to know about America. I would question myself, is it the true that America is better than all the other countries in the world? I saw so many different things such as gun shooting in the school, bombing at the sport meet and so many other bad things. Then I start to question myself about the basic principle ‘American is the greatest country in the world’ that I got  known from other people. 

I found out that America certainly is a great country but not the greatest. United States are at high rank in world wide in most of the ways such like economic, education, and military power. America has huge influence with its military, economic and media advance. But in the same time there are some issues inside of America; the ones in my head are medical care and social harmony. It is easy to see that some European country such as Norway, Ireland and Switzerland. Sometimes America should really just slow herself down and recall on those little issues. I still believe in America that American has the opportunity to be the greatest county in the world. 

 

Mallory Ackerson, Blog Entry #1

America. When one thinks of America the first thing that might pop into their head is the phrase, “the land of opportunity.” America is a place where all people are given equal rights and freedom. We are a country that gives its citizens the right to vote and the right to free speech, but are we really the “greatest country?” Sure other countries give their citizen’s freedom and other rights, but is that what it’s all about? 

As Will McAvoy said in the premier of Newsroom, “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…” This harsh reality exposes America’s “ugly side.” It seems today that people, especially those in the media, are more concerned with the politics in America. Don’t get me wrong politics are an important part of America, but it seems the media is making it more about who voted in which direction for which things. This “drama” they are creating is taking away from the things that actually matter. McAvoy also pointed out that, “We’re 7th in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, number four in labor force and number four in exports.” These aren’t great stats at all. If people knew these stats, would they change their response to the question, is America the greatest country?

Today people need to realize that they need to stop being so stubborn. People either are super involved and aware of what is going on or they have no idea what is happening and don’t really care. This is the main issue Americans have; the majority of them just don’t care enough.  All they care about is McDonalds changing its dollar menu even spending the time to write an article entitled, The end of McDonald’s Dollar Menu as we know it. In this article they basically complain about the prices stating, “Most of the other items cost a dollar and change, including the McDouble and McChicken, which each go for $1.69, and the four-piece McNugget, which costs $1.59…” (http://money.cnn.com/2013/10/24/news/companies/mcdonalds-dollar-menu/). Seriously? This really is the issue Americans have, the willingness to find issues in the smallest of issues while completely ignoring the things that actually matter. If Americans would take initiative to change some of those stats, America could easily get back to being the greatest county in the world.