December 2013 Print Issue

Page 6

AMERICA By Benjamin Seo/Gavel Media Staff In the opening scene of Aaron Sorkin’s HBO television series, The Newsroom, the anchor of the nightly news, Will McAvoy, is asked what makes America the greatest country in the world. After many unsuccessful attempts to dodge the question, he finally relents and states that the United States is not, in fact, the greatest country in the world. “[America is] seventh in literacy, twenty-seventh in math, twenty-second in science, forty-ninth in life expectancy, and one hundred and seventy-eighth in infant mortality,” the character explains. In fact, he states, “[America] leads the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real and defense spending.” According to the fictionalized McAvoy, there was a time when America was great. “We stood up for what was right . . . We sacrificed. We cared for our neighbors. We built great, big things . . . We aspired to intelligence.” This old ideal of American exceptionalism was based on the fact that, “We were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed by great men.” Americans look at the state of their country today and cannot help but return to the nostalgia of these “good old days” of which McAvoy speaks. Even the mortal men and women of American history are looked upon and revered as “heroes of days long past,” while their current successors are deemed incompetent and flawed. So what has happened to the idea of American exceptionalism? Many would argue that American


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December 2013