If there is one thing that 2020 has made adamantly clear about America, its institutions, and its status as the oft-touted “preeminent superpower of the world,” it is that there is a substantial need for improvement. One categorizes “great” in a variety of ways but seldom do they cite record unemployment numbers, mass-evictions, and a death toll of more than 200k as the metric of a great nation. “If you don’t like it, leave!” they’ll proclaim, pulling out their ultimate trump card, a worn and dusted decree that has been in circulation for decades. There is a worrying trend that holding an unwavering belief in your country and an inability to acknowledge its flaws is the mark of true patriotism and not a blueprint for a nationalistic echo chamber. This is not the case.
If COVID were a test, we have failed. And yet our allies, though not unaffected themselves, have managed to tar their heels and keep an already tumultuous situation from spiraling even further out of control. But what COVID-19, colloquially referred to now as the “Coronavirus,” has successfully demonstrated – with no uncertainty – is that the United States is a nation that has failed its people, and that if there is a great nation which exists, we have no right to be used as its template.
Is a nation great when steered by a divided federal government, more content playing partisan games than serving the people, are incapable of supporting a large swathe of the now unemployed population who bordered on the edge of destitution. Their relief? A single stimulus check of $1,200. Hospitals, meanwhile, remained pushed to maximum operating capacity with an untold number of medical personnel being forced to scrape by with second-hand supplies and negligible Personal Protective Equipment (PPE.)
Is a nation great when it boasts a healthcare system infested by insurance companies looking to inflate the cost of medical care and selling premiums to would-be customers so they can continue to bank off of the rhetoric that healthcare is a business and not a basic human right? Of every single first-world country on this planet, The United States stands alone in its belief that military expenditure (of which we outspend every other nation on this planet, and spend more per year than China, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea, and Brazil combined) is a more worthwhile investment than a healthcare system which would not saddle its people with tens of thousands of dollars of debt in the off chance they need an emergency medical procedure?
Is a nation great when its teachers, the very people who work tirelessly to ensure that the next generation is informed and able to enter the world with the skills and knowledge to be successful as an adult, are cast back into schools as sacrificial lambs? Are these essential workers truly “essential,” or is the job essential and their position as human completely secondary to their societal role? Is that how a first-world nation cares for its people?
The first step to solving any problem is to acknowledge that there is one. America is not a nation of greatness. It is not a nation of jovial song and fanfare proclaiming their status as the leading force behind all that is good and prosperous in this world. America is a nation screaming in agony, its people echoing its harrowing wails with cries of their own. If there is a call, it is not one of beckoning embrace, but worn exasperation. And to deny that is the furthest thing from patriotism.