A couple weeks ago this short clip from the HBO series, “The Newsroom”, was posted by a couple of my Facebook friends. I’ve never seen the show so I don’t know much of anything about the storyline beyond the obvious. The topic of American Exceptionalism has come up on this blog before and it always seems to bring out emotional responses from my readers and from other bloggers, who can’t understand why I find the whole question of this nation’s exceptionalism to be uninteresting and even meaningless.
I still don’t understand what people find so attractive about this clip. It’s incredibly predictable. In this scene, Will McAvoy, played by Jeff Daniels, belittles his fellow panelists and the questioner, who asks if they can state in one sentence why America is the greatest country in the world. In his zeal to point out the shallowness of his fellow panelists McAvoy proceeds to offer and even shallower response. America is not the greatest, but it…:
Sure used to be. We stood up for what was right. We fought for moral reasons. We passed laws, 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 we cultivated the world’s greatest artists and the world’s greatest economy. We reached for the stars. Acted like men.
We aspired to intelligence. We didn’t belittle it, it didn’t make us feel inferior.
We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election, and we didn’t, oh, we didn’t scare so easy. Ha. We were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed. By great men. Men who were revered. First step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. America is not the greatest country in the world anymore. Enough?
We lap up this kind of sentimental nonsense that butchers American history even as we complain about videos of college students who can’t remember basic historical facts.