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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    Is America a Great County or the Greatest Country?

    There’s a romantic ideal often touted by politicians about how America is the greatest nation in the history of the Earth. Many make this claim, and even more believe it, whether they state so explicitly or not. The fact is that the United States is one of the greatest nations in this planet’s history. Claiming that it’s the greatest, though, is neglecting the fact that there have been many others, in other countries, that have claimed the same thing.

    Most of those commentators and their respective countries are long gone now. It stands to reason therefore, that pundits who claim that America is the greatest country, won’t be the last to bestow the nation with that lofty title.

    “Great” can mean many things. So how is America great then? Its history is certainly steeped in turmoil and moral injustices. From the slaughtering and forced relocation of countless Native American tribes, the enslavement of blacks, to segregation and subjugation of almost every race, gender, social class and religion by another at some point in this great nation’s past, America has certainly taken a rough road to where it is today.

    Luckily and thankfully, there have been many brave souls who have fought against these travesties from both sides. As a result, the American experiment has emerged better off than many others. After all, most modern Americans don’t worry about issues that plague most of the rest of the world. Even other post-industrialized countries have problems that most Americans have avoided, ranging from high unemployment to rampant corruption.

    Perhaps the best way to prove or disprove a country’s greatness is to look at what it has contributed to the world, over the course of its history. On the plus side, Americans have made vast contributions to technology, from automobiles and planes, to the radio, television and computer. We were the first and only nation to land people on the moon and saved Europe – and the world – from certain destruction not once, but twice.

    The downside, however, is that we have taken our fair share of responsibility for the ills of the world, to the point where we can no longer deal with them effectively. Not only do we rampantly devour more resources per capita than any other nation, but also we do so without any sign of cutting back or moderating our consumption any time soon. We contribute more to global warming than anyone else and have spent years getting richer, faster, while many forgotten within our own borders have slipped through the cracks.

    If you think of “greatness” as “changing the world,” then America is irrefutably one of the greatest countries ever. It’s important to realize, however, that when politicians claim that to live in the greatest country in the history of the world, that this triumph comes with some evils as well. We like to think of ourselves as uniquely different from those who have staked this belief in the past. The truth is, however, that we’re not as different from our predecessors as we would like to think.

    Ancient Rome comes to mind as a “great” civilization that once thought it to be the “greatest” society ever. From their perspective, and that of their marveling, conquered peoples, this must have seemed like the blatant truth. Their contributions and spread of innovations in the fields of engineering, commerce, and civics were unparalleled by many before and after them. Like America though, their global contributions came at a cost. Slavery, social and economic inequities, and corruption ran rampant in their society, eventually consuming and crumbling their decadent way of life. Is America on the road towards a similar downfall?

    Maybe not in the same way as the Roman Empire collapsed, but the point is that all nations rise and fall. Nothing lasts forever and America is no exception to that universal rule. The only question that remains is for how long will America the Great continue to endure? Some think we’re headed towards an imminent crash, while others think that the span of the country’s existence is indefinite. Both analysis are probably wrong.

    There are two courses remaining for this nation. It will either keep rising, or truly start falling. The former option will require undreamed of innovations and improvements in science, agriculture, recycling, and energy production, while the latter option can be easily accomplished by simply sitting back and giving into decadence and decay.

    If the nation as a whole doesn’t act to change its ways, to go back to the great innovator that gave the world unheard of technologies and accomplishments in the 20th century, then the 21st century could very well wind up being the century where we join our Roman ancestors in the pages of history.

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