Wineke: Are we really No. 1?
It must be a holiday because the news media are replete with stories about patriotic polls.
The one that caught my eye is a Pew poll alleging that fewer Americans today see America as standing “above all countries in the world.” Some 28 percent now say “We’re No. 1!” A couple of years ago, 38 percent affirmed that premise.
On the other hand, 58 percent of those polled agree that our country is “one of the greatest countries in the world along with others.”
All in all, I see that as a positive sign.
It doesn’t say anything negative about the United States, I would guess. But it is fairly obvious that our status as being head-and-shoulders above anyone else has been slipping for some time.
And, as I suggested above, that’s a good thing.
At least, it’s a good thing if it means that other countries are getting better.
We emerged from World War II with an economy that had been strengthened by war. Almost every other great or formerly great nation was severely diminished by war. Their cities had been bombed, their industries wrecked, their economies shattered.
But that was 70 years ago. Now the Chinese economy is threatening to push us out of first place. The Indian economy is booming. Go to a store and you’ll find almost anything you wear and many things you use sporting labels from countries few of us have really ever heard about. Buy an iPhone and it’s made in China.
The result? Well, when was the last time you heard anyone talk about the “starving children of China?” India now has a middle class larger than the entire American population.
We’re the major trading partner with those countries. It really doesn’t stand to reason they would want to go to war with us. What possibly could they gain?
We fought a long war in Vietnam and lost. Now, Vietnam is a major trading partner.
About the only places we seem to be truly unpopular these days are in countries we invaded a decade ago. There’s something about having a foreign country come into your land, bomb your cities and replace your government — even if it’s a bad government — that tends to make you feel a little sore at the invader.
America is a good country. In fact, America is a very good country. But we’re better off, and the world is better off, when we see ourselves as one good country among others and don’t see ourselves as being so No. 1 that we don’t have to pay attention to anyone else.