“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.