The U.S. is no longer the greatest nation in the world because we as a people do not deserve a government that can be considered the greatest.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, and the financial crisis of 2008, Americans have consistently elected governments that have systematically handed freedoms over to airport security out of fear, executed individuals abroad without trial, marginalized the influence of the individual citizen in comparison to the mega-wealthy and corporations out of a fetish for wealth, and allowed public discourse to be reduced to absolute irrationality and a disgusting parade of immaturity.
Though there are many who are responsible for this, be it the virtual coup d’etat of our government by right-wing megalomaniacs in Congress or the complete lack of personal strength and conviction of our president, there is only one true culprit: the American people.
As Sir Isaac Newton once said, we all “stand on the shoulders of giants,” making it difficult for us to see the possible greatness we might have in comparison to the obvious greatness of past generations and individuals.
The importance here, however, is that we should fashion ourselves the giants of our successors and not mourn for the castrated greatness of our contemporaries in comparison to the past.
Instead of forging ourselves as the greatest nation ever to walk the earth, the American people prefer to mourn for what we have lost over the years, and instead of working together as a single people with a shared history, we conceive of each other as enemies of the state and traitors to the cause.
The U.S. is not the greatest nation on the earth anymore because Americans have not acted like the greatest people on the earth, and as Cassius said to Brutus, “The fault lies not in our stars but in ourselves.”
If we deserve a better government, then we should start acting as though we do and demand more from politicians, our candidates and ourselves. We should treat each other with dignity and respect, even when we disagree and demand the same out of our elected officials.
Though things are difficult for the U.S. right now, I do not believe our best days are behind us, but instead are before us. But, this will be so only when we start acting as though they can and should be.