One of the many things that makes New Yorkers tiresome to massholes like myself is their consistent, casual assertion that it’s the Greatest City In The World. As if there’s no argument, as if it’s the most obvious statement one could conceivably make, income disparities and crumbling subways and Yankee fans apparently somehow not contradicting them.
As much as it pains me to say it, though, they’re a lot closer to the mark than the rest of us, considering that we as a nation are more than a little bit given to the exact same thing. If you do a search for “greatest country in the world”, for instance, you get a lot of them, and i mean a lot. It’s bipartisan, too. De rigeur for the Republicans in the room, but expected of Democrats, too, it’s a verbal equivalent of a mid-2000’s flag pin. It doesn’t really matter which end of the spectrum you’re on, you’re expected to act as if this is true.
But it’s not, it’s not even close. And it’s less about whether or not we are or aren’t, were or weren’t, what depresses me is that we don’t even try. No, let me restate that, it’s depressing that we don’t even think we have to try. Never mind that we’re heading in the opposite direction, we just are, y’know?
Why should we feel any obligation to look out for the least fortunate among us and help them up out of poverty for as long as they need? Our healthcare system is the best, because the richest among us have access to the best product of our smartest doctors, scientists, and engineers–but there’s no need to worry about life expectancy or infant mortality for the rest of us, much less the poor. We invented public education and the rest of the world sends their kids to college here, so we’re good, right? It’s okay for us to starve/privatize/sabotage the former and wall off the latter with the risk of crippling debt. We’re fine with our crumbling roads and bridges, clogged public transit, congested airports, and nonexistent trains. There’s nothing unjust about racist policing, unequal justice, and mass incarceration. Why even bother with leading the way to clean energy when what we have works so well?
It’s like you haven’t even been listening.
We’re. The. Greatest. Country. In. The. World.
And that’s what we’ll be muttering to ourselves, huddled ignorantly in flooded, crumbling, unhealthy cities, and deserted and desertified suburbs, wondering why the rest of the world just doesn’t understand, and what could have been if we just tried, even a little.