Still the Best Country

20040914-americaI was recently asked, “Is the United States still the best country to
live in or should we all move to Canada?” My initial reaction was that
Canada is too cold, but after more thought I’ve decided to outline some of the reasons why
I still think the United States of America is the best country in the
world.

Now, anytime you make a statement comparing one thing to another the only definitive way to decide which is better is to first determine the areas of comparison and define priorities. For example, recently a client of mine asked whether one window manufacturer was better than another. That is a nearly impossible question to answer. Are we talking about price, thermal resistance, light transmission, aesthetics, construction quality, environmental friendliness? The list goes on and on. Both manufacturers excel in different areas, so how do you rate one above the other? It is necessary to prioritize and give specific weights to the different criteria. In the case of the windows, my client valued aesthetics and construction quality over other criteria, but another client might place more value on a window made of recycled materials with a high insulation value. It’s important to note that my view of the United States is highly subjective. I lived in Europe for a couple years, and have traveled on a limited basis in North America, the rest of my world view comes from reading, and speaking with others who have traveled.

So, why do I still love the United States? Well, why wouldn’t I? Would I not love my country because we have a vibrant and active political scene where people with disparate points of view can express them without fear of being imprisoned or killed? Should I not love the United States because I disagree with political leaders who we chose in free and open elections? We have a representative democracy, I may not always agree with our leaders decisions, so I make a point of being informed and voting. Can I hate my country because we actively involve ourselves in trying to make the world a better place? I don’t think so.

One of the greatest things I love about the United States is her people. The United States is an amazing social experiment where people from every nation of the world, every religion, color, background, and walk of life, mingle and, for the most part, coexist peacefully. There is no other country in the world that has been so successful at bringing different people together. Despite our past differences, as a people we have consistently moved forward in giving equal rights and opportunities to all of our citizens. We even fought a bloody and costly civil war to free an entire segment of our population from the bonds of slavery.

We are also a generous people. Of all the countries in the world the people of the United States give more money annually to humanitarian causes than any other nation. According to the “2006 Index of Global Philanthropy”, published by the Hudson Institute, in 2004 we gave almost 1 trillion dollars to developing countries (page 15). We are often criticized because the United States government “only” gives 19.1 billion dollars annually (still the largest government donation in dollars by a factor of 2.2), but I would rather our government didn’t give a single cent of our tax dollars to foreign aid! Private donations to foreign humanitarian projects totaled over 71 billion dollars in 2004, I think that says much more about us as a people than what politicians decide to force upon us. A great example of our generosity was after the 2004 earthquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean. Over 10 billion USD were collected for the relief effort and over 2.8 million came from the United States, more than 2 times as much as any other country. More amazing still, is that almost 1.9 billion of that was from private donations! To be fair, on a per capita and as a percentage of GDP Australia gave the most, $66 per capita, as compared to the $10 per capita of the United States, but this was due to a large government aid package as opposed to private contributions. I still think it’s important to note the impressive resources and potential for good that the United States has. (Figures taken from Wikipedia)

An unmistakable asset of our great country is the land itself. American’s have always loved nature and the great landscape on which we find ourselves. Over 578,000 square miles, almost 16% of the land area of the United States, is protected. Amazingly one tenth of the protected land in the world is within the borders of the United States. Within minutes of my home I can find numerous unspoiled and natural areas, hills, streams, and mountains all preserved for me and my children. Mountains, rivers, beaches, canyons, deserts, glaciers, marshes, and forests are all found in abundance. We are rich in natural resources and some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world.

Another thing that I still love about our nation is our military. Now before you freak out, let me explain. I hate war. I would love to, and I believe we someday will, live in a world where armies aren’t necessary. However, we live in a world where tyrants seek to oppress and control, and liberty and freedom is maintained only through a balance of military force. As a country we are involved in a highly divisive and controversial war in Iraq. Despite the controversy over the rational and justification of this war, it cannot be denied that we have the most technologically advanced, most professional, disciplined, and well organized army of any nation. The brave men and women of our military have time and again accomplished impossible tasks under impossible circumstances. I am grateful to the bravery of those who withstood the invincible British army in the war of independence. George Washington and the Continental Army made it possible for this country to blossom and flourish. I solemnly remember the over 360 thousand union soldiers who gave their lives to keep this country united, and I proudly remember the brave soldiers who stormed the beaches of Normandy to overthrow an evil and murderous tyrant who killed millions. War is gruesome and ugly. Approximately 15 million died in WWI and over 50 million in WWII. Yet if it weren’t for the United States military we would most likely be living in a world without the freedoms and liberties we so cherish. Time and again, the United States has fought to preserve freedom and liberty around the globe, and despite the political implications, I hope that we never loose our resolve to stand up for those who are oppressed and downtrodden.

This brings me to the last thing for which I am extremely grateful. Freedom. The Constitution of the United States is, I believe, inspired by God. This single document lays the framework for a government that has maintained and ensured freedom for millions over the last 230 years. The bill of rights has protected my right to political speech, has maintained my freedom to believe in God and practice the religion of my choosing, and has guaranteed that I will be given a fair, speedy, and public trial if I am ever convicted of a crime. Seeing the turmoil and problems in the world, I am more and more grateful for these rights every day. I am grateful that we don’t have cameras on every corner monitoring our every move, I am grateful that we don’t have police arresting us for not practicing the right religion, or worse, arresting us for only a suspicion of a wrongdoing and then holding us for years without any recourse. I am grateful that people are able to protest in the streets of San Francisco, LA, or Washington D.C. without being rounded up, slaughtered, and dumped in a forest. I am grateful that I live in a country where I can own my own business, get an education, work hard and become whatever I can dream. I am grateful that I live in a country where a college dropout can become the richest man in the world, and a poor immigrant from Austria can become governor of California.

I believe as a people we are too negative. We have so much to be thankful for. It is true that our freedoms are slowly being eroded and that the religious, democratic and capitalist foundations of our country are becoming progressively more atheistic and socialistic; however, I still believe we are the richest and most powerful nation for a reason. We have been blessed and I pray will continue to be. We need to take more time and reflect on all that we still have and then fight to regain what we have lost. The passion and dreams that drive the great people of the United States will continue to make this country the best in the world.