We are not the greatest country in the world.
We are flawed, like every other. We are a nation that for generations has sought to be that shining beacon in the night, that island in a sea of darkness, that destination of hope for the hopeless.
What is MY responsibility to seek what was once a truly great nation, but is not one that many around the globe pity. Don’t believe it? Search out a column from “The Irish Times” by columnist Fintan O’Toole. Here’s just a small sample of what he wrote in late April of 2020.
“However bad things are for most other rich democracies, it is hard not to feel sorry for Americans. Most of them did not vote for Donald Trump in 2016. Yet they are locked down with a malignant narcissist who, instead of protecting his people from Covid-19, has amplified its lethality. The country Trump promised to make great again has never in its history seemed so pitiful.
Will American prestige ever recover from this shameful episode? The US went into the coronavirus crisis with immense advantages: precious weeks of warning about what was coming, the world’s best concentration of medical and scientific expertise, effectively limitless financial resources, a military complex with stunning logistical capacity and most of the world’s leading technology corporations. Yet it managed to make itself the global epicentre of the pandemic.
As the American writer George Packer puts it in the current edition of the Atlantic, “The United States reacted … like Pakistan or Belarus – like a country with shoddy infrastructure and a dysfunctional government whose leaders were too corrupt or stupid to head off mass suffering.”
It is one thing to be powerless in the face of a natural disaster, quite another to watch vast power being squandered in real time – willfully, malevolently, vindictively. It is one thing for governments to fail (as, in one degree or another, most governments did), quite another to watch a ruler and his supporters actively spread a deadly virus. Trump, his party and Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News became vectors of the pestilence.”
We are not the greatest country in the world. Not anymore. Instead, we are being pitied by those our leadership would consider lessers.
So then, what can you do, what can I do, what can we do, to stop or, at the very least, slow down a maddening rush into a disastrous void we won’t emerge from in this lifetime?
Maybe, just maybe, we must settle for little steps forward in becoming not just “great” in the sense of being able to puff out our chests on a world stage, but to consider how the small things we do will be “great” to one person at a time, and simply build from there.
Don’t make America great today. Step back. Breathe. Take your time.
Make the life of someone around you, perhaps someone you’ve never met, better with a word of encouragement, compassion and inspiration.