America is a Terrible Country Compared to Whom?

Civil War reparations

The following is excerpted from Jon Davis’s reply to the question, Why are some Americans so sensitive to criticism of their country? on Quora.

It is over 6000 words long, but is the best and most concise answer to the anti-American crowd I’ve ever read. It covers slavery, the extermination of the Indians and capitalism – everything that pops up in every discussion about how terrible America is and why it should be hated and despised by everyone with a pulse. Davis does not shy away from the controversial topics, but instead places them in the context of their time and treats them with objectivity.

Jon also has a Patreon account. Please consider supporting this young, talented writer.

Original link to the complete article at Quora, a Google company. 

Being critical of something is not the end of a debate. One would agree that I am not obligated to take criticism of an idea, and leave it at that? Critics must also be open to having their assumptions and beliefs challenged in rebuttal. That’s a necessary part of any argument. People on both sides must be challenged, in turn. If you want to criticize something… you have to be open to having your own criticisms challenged. What I see, so very often, is that when someone defends the United States, or simply states some logical inconsistency in arguments against it, they are accused of being “overly sensitive” or even “fragile”. Being a balance against an argument is not fragility or sensitivity. It’s necessary in testing an idea. Criticisms aren’t right simply by virtue of being controversial. Sometimes they are, but we only know that after a thorough debate of back and forth civil discussion.

That’s the main issue. People assume that to criticize the United States is the end of the story. They’ve taken an “underdog” position, and anyone who defends the other side is either “trapped in old style thinking”, “simply fails to understand”, or as this question does, are “just oversensitive.” You can’t just be considered right because you’re taking an edgy or controversial stance, and all others are wrong because they aren’t cynics. Simply saying, “I’m woke; America bad” is just as poor of a justification for one’s intellectual position as, “Everything America does is awesome.”

This is why criticism towards the United States has many issues. Many groups and ideologies dislike the United States, and feel that they are taking a heroes’ stance by attacking the king of the mountain. For that reason, any criticism is immediately taken as fact and logical questions are ignored. Often times, the challenge isn’t to show that some negative event has happened in America’s history, but to imply or outright say that America is a terrible and destructive force in the world and that it’s people deserve nothing but shame and to exit the world community and atone. Obviously, such hyperbolic accusations are absurd, but it really comes off in the degree that people attack the United States, namely in the double standards they hold against it that is not applied to the history of other nations — or even things they are doing right now.

In other cases, some nation has some policy that someone views as beneficial and that should happen in the US. Since it doesn’t, the United States is a terrible place to live because some mysterious evil presence prevents its adoption here — probably evil old white conservative Republicans. Then, when someone mentions the vastly different eco-systems that other nations are governed by, not least of which being the presence of the United States to save them from utter economic and military catastrophe, it is often very difficult for them. These are often very complex arguments and require far more knowledge than simply saying, “but look at the amazing literacy programs in Cuba”. It is usually a very difficult wall to crash into, as people many people who criticize America are usually battling with a difference of what should be, rather than with what the limitations are. One is a concrete argument about scarcity and the other is an ideological argument. From my perspective, it isn’t the people making the concrete arguments that are being over-sensitive when you question them.

That said, criticism of the United States is often flawed on its face, once the critics are challenged with defending their views. There are many sources of bad faith arguments, anti-American bigotry is actually fairly common. But because of these bad actors in debate, and because these people are so difficult to reach through reasoned rational argumentation, it leaves many people jaded. It is easy to say that America has failed by our current moral standards, or that, in hindsight, there were better options. But if you honestly think those facts mean that America is not today the most desirable nation in the world to be, as well as be willing all of it’s many contributions to the world, then it makes it very difficult to trust in the rationality of arguments against America and its people. If people who want to criticize the United States can first make a few acknowledgements that they understand these points, it makes it much easier to have a real conversation. That said, I’ll share some of the more common criticisms to America, as such, that I simply get annoyed with because they don’t show much real consideration.

America is a Terrible Country
Compared to Whom?

This constitutes a number of arguments, such as America’s warlike nature, our history of racism, economic bullying, whatever. The real question whenever someone brings this up is asking them to define some terms, namely, what does a good nation look like? They list off examples of things that the United States has done wrong, in retrospect, but fail miserably when you ask them to show better examples.

What I mean by “better examples” aren’t some backwoods commune with no influence, power, or responsibility. I mean a nation that has achieved a few things.

  1. Created a massive population relative to others
  2. Achieve some degree of hegemonic status
  3. Were at the time world leaders

It’s a short list, but the nations in history who have done it is really short. When you look at every other nation in history who would be considered “world leaders” (none in the way that America universally leads the world today) you see a list of crimes on such a monumental scale that you are dumbfounded by how cruel and miserable the world used to be — specifically, until a time when the United States came to power, not coincidentally.

America is a great nation.

By “great” I don’t mean perfectly morally and altruistically free from the burden of history by the standards of value of today and for all time. Many seem to think that passing that test is necessary for a nation to even be considered decent. It’s not. For a nation to have always had the ethics that a particular group of people living today value for its entire history is impossible even for any nation only 50 years ago, let along hundreds, and which we will never pass 50 years from now.

I mean a “great nation” in the sense of providing wealth and security for its people far more reliably than the world average, and being powerful enough that other nations must adapt their policy around decisions we make. There are rarely more than a handful of “great” nations alive at any given time. By most standards of power, economy, military strength, influence, and wealth, American has been the greatest. But compare the “greatest” nation of our time to the greatest nations of history. Comparing the world leading nations, and the way they ruled during their 400 years or so lifespans, is really an act of counting genocides. That’s just a matter of principle that ruling vast territories against the ravages of internal diversity and external threats is usually done through a balance of law and institutions, and a lot of violence from on high. Compare apples to apples and ask how much violence it required for the United States to become what it is today.

Already, many of you are failing to do it. You immediately went to events like the Trail of Tears (where millions of Native Americans were marched off to Oklahoma in a forced resettlement,) or perhaps you’re thinking about slavery. No, I want you to compare our history to the entire history of other “Great” people. Consider the Islamic Conquests, where untold millions were put to the sword. Consider the United Kingdom’s sweep across the world’s oceans, such as what befell the Indians and Chinese. Not to say that the Chinese or Indians are any better. Their histories are filled with ethnic and cultural purges, religious and political oppression, and any of a number of other atrocities. That’s not necessarily a judgmental statement. Literally every major power has that history.

But the United States has less of it.

The more you study history, the more you realize that all of it is particularly gruesome and cruel. This is a universal truth and not something specific only to the history of the United States and Nazi Germany. The US came to power with far less blood on our hands than others did. Many critics like to imagine that the United States is uniquely horrific, but when you honestly learn of what life was like under any empire, you’ll learn why many Americans take such offense to be compared to our historical counterparts. Simply put, if you had to choose a major world power to live under as someone not of their blood… no rational person would choose any other besides the United States.

A fair criticism should include that acknowledgment. While America isn’t perfect, when compared to other “great” nations of the past, we are the best. We came to control more power with less horror than anyone in history. Simply put, if America is an evil conquering empire who has done things so terribly, then which empires would you have rather been conquered by?

That’s an adult question. Adult questions understand that, yes, a unicorn is better than a work-horse, but unicorns aren’t real. If you honestly had to pick from a list of only imperfect choices, which all choices are… which would you choose? In almost every category, all people in history would have flocked to the United States. People who criticize the US must acknowledge that if they expect their criticisms to be listened to.

Why did the US side with…

From there, we are asked to defend every single choice in history from someone with our nationality in it.

But why did the United States ally with [people who are bad] back in the [day].

Grow up.

Honestly, it frustrates me that anyone could live a life so sheltered and free from responsibility that they do not understand that there are decisions that nations must make that aren’t ideal. You can’t only make ideal decisions, unless you like your people starving.

For example, we’ve made many bad alliances throughout history that seemed like good ideas at the time. The worst of these, I’ll volunteer, might be the Taliban. There is a conspiracy theory that the US built Al Qaeda. That’s not totally accurate, particularly if you want to follow the line that 9/11 was a hoax, but there is truth in the story that the United States did align with Afghan rebels to fight the Russian Soviets then occupying Afghanistan and that had a part to play with the foundation of Al Qaeda. That campaign went amazingly well. All we had to do was give them some money and a few stinger missiles, and Russia’s strategy in Afghanistan was done for. Of course, to quote one American senator involved in that mission, then we f***** up the end game. The people we were supporting later became known as the Taliban, and we made it possible for them to take over Afghanistan, clearing the way for Al Qaeda to become what it later would. If you want to know more about that, here it is: Jon Davis’s answer to To what extent is Al-Qaeda a creation of the CIA?

But I tell you honestly, as someone who was deeply impacted by the events of 9/11 and fought in the War on Terror that it caused, I would have done things exactly the same way. It was so vital that the United States defeat the Soviet Union in the 70’s and 80’s that to compare the threats the USSR posed to Al Qaeda is a joke. If you had to pick one to deal with, rather than the other, every day of the week I would take Al Qaeda in all its forms. Simply put, Al Qaeda shocked the world when it leveled a few of our buildings, but the USSR would have shocked the world when it leveled a few of our cities.

These are the decisions that nations must make, those forced by realities beyond our control. They’re realpolitik, where you don’t pick allies based on ideological preference, a perfect history, or even honor and loyalty. It’s where the cruel twists of geography and the scarcity of resources force you to deal with the allies that reality has imposed on you. To quote Winston Churchill:

We have no lasting friends, no lasting enemies, only lasting interests.

And no better proof of that is the picture of he; the then president of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt; and Joseph Stalin, the leader of the said same USSR and a man personally responsible for the killing of millions of his own people.

How could the UK and US side with the Soviets?

Because the Nazis were arguably worse, at least for Americans and the Brits.

Do I wish that history could be written where no communist ever had a good word written about them? Yes, but without them, the Nazis wouldn’t have been defeated, or would have, along with millions upon millions of Americans after Europe was cleansed of its entire culture, to say nothing of its people. Again, the Communists weren’t much better, and by the body count, far worse, but real adults understand that history isn’t filled with people who only made ideologically pure decisions. Sometimes it is a choice of choosing snakes to fight worse snakes, and for that, I thank our ancestors for making tough choices that I will not fault them for from the comfort of 2020.

I don’t care about the alliances we have made with people who sucked. We literally can’t fix everyone on Earth, but we still have to get along, and part of that is making choices of who we work with. If you want to pull out examples from South America or the Middle East, fine, a lot of people sucked, but our number one priority are the Americans — and realpolitik isn’t the same as really nice.

And in realizing this, we realize that that really only leaves the United States with two options. First, we will be forced into extreme isolationism, because literally no one on Earth is good enough for us to work with since they all have faults, too. Second, we do the opposite, we force our will and our culture on everyone, relegating us to a forever long war against everyone else where cultural and ethnic cleansing aren’t just an unhappy outcome, but the goal. So either we are forced to be heartlessly uncaring because we’re ignoring the problems of the entire world or we’re warmongers. As that’s pretty much how we’re viewed anyway when we do neither of these things, you can understand a bit of our frustration.

But what about slavery and the Native Americans?

Next, let’s look at some of the darker periods in American history. How exactly do Americans justify the Trail of Tears or slavery?

You don’t.

You don’t try to justify something according to what is rational today. It’s like people who have decided that racism is bad. Congratulations. You were born in the least racist times in human history in one of the least racist cultures ever, decades after the major battles against racism were fought and won by others. Congratulations that you are so enlightened.

But you think that you would have been better if you were born in 1600? You think that if you had been there when the first slave ships arrived you would have stood your ground and said, “Nay! Never while I breath!” You really think that?

Don’t be a fool.

If you are so privileged today to be one of the people signalling your infinite virtue by declaring things everyone else alive today already knows, then you would have probably also been one of the people buying and selling the slaves, making arguments that they were simply animals and that they need to be beaten when they act up, and splitting up families if it served your plantation’s interests.

One of my favorite books is also the hardest for me to read. It’s called Ordinary Men by Christopher R. Browning. It details the based on real events fictional retelling of how a reserve police battalion came under the command of the Nazis and how ordinary men fell into events beyond their control that led them to commit history’s greatest atrocities. I learned a great about myself after reading that book. It forced me to realize how likely I, or easily any of us, could have been born in the 1910s in Germany, and how easily we probably would have gone along with the Nazis, too. This is the one of the hardest things about growing up and being very honest with ourselves. It is the cold reality that most of us are only ever agreeing with the people around us and always manage to justify whatever we are doing or, if our children are lucky, come to a better way of thinking just to be judged years later for believing what was normal. We are products of the times and places which we lived in and it is a horrifically arrogant presumption to think that you are in a place to judge people of the past. The most honest and moral thing that anyone can say today is to look back and be thankful that they don’t live in a time like that anymore.

What’s the point of all this?

You can’t judge people of the past based on today’s standards. You simply can’t. We came by those standards by living through experiences that those people haven’t had the benefit of. We are whatever our societies make us into, including commonly accepted definitions of what is allowable. Those definitions change very slowly. But instead of judging all of America today as if we yet remain slave traders and the types of people to massacre villages of Native Americans, a wiser person would realize that all those people are dead, and the legacy of their decisions is wiped out more and more with every passing generation. At some point, and that point may have already passed long ago, you can’t keep blaming the past for the present.

But even then, there is more to consider.

While we can simply say that there are things in our history that we wish weren’t so, we have a right to also ask what else was going on at the exact same time elsewhere in the world. It’s a bit much to say that you, by your 2020 standards are in a place to judge people from 400 years ago, but what if we were actually better than our contemporaries at the time?

Slavery is a very good example.

The above graphic demonstrates something about the slave trade that very few contemporary critics of the United States are even aware of in regards to the history of slavery… African slaves didn’t only go to the United States. An interesting book I wish more people would read is Thomas Sowell’s Conquest and Cultures. It’s a brilliant book on the rest of world history that doesn’t often get mentioned by authors and academics obsessed with a Howard Zinn style indictment of the United States while ignoring literally everything else going on everywhere else. Slavery, as Sowell very clearly demonstrates, was something that most Americans would be shocked, happened anywhere else. In fact, looking at the scope and scale of it is breathtaking. It is often well cited that something like 1 in 3 Africans died on the voyage to the US. That’s horrible and I am not downplaying it, but what never gets mentioned is that the entire population of slaves shipped to the United States was between 250,000 and 350,000 people. Given that the population of blacks in the United States now surpasses 37,000,000, the numbers tell a story. This is especially true when you compare it to the other places where black slaves were sold. If you look on the above graph depicting Brazil, the 1 in 3 death rate was nothing to the in 1 in 10 survival rate for blacks on Brazilian plantations. There, the conditions were so horrific that the disturbingly high mortality rate was a struggle just to get enough slaves to replace them.

And this doesn’t even mention the real horrors of the Arab Slave Trade. There, slaves captured across northern and Sub-Saharan Africa were marched across the desert, where they also experienced a mortality rate of 90%. For men, this was even worse, as once they reached the end of their journey, they were castrated as eunuchs. Eunuchs were highly valued in Middle Eastern culture, as they could be a trusted servant for the master’s wives and concubines (many also slaves from Africa and even Europe), and many held high rank as there was no possibility of them breaking off to form rival dynasties. They were also exceptionally rare, as those 10% who survived the trek across the desert (not to mention whatever horrors they survived to become slaves in the first place) meant they would endure a surgery to remove their manhood and suffer another 90% mortality rate due to infection and exposure. All this meant that a young enslaved African man might sustain a 33% mortality rate if he was sold into slavery into the Americas, but he would endure a 90% mortality rate if sent to Brazil or any of a number of other countries, and a 99% mortality rate if sent to an Arab country.

But why didn’t the Europeans hold slaves like the US and others did?

Well, I’m sorry to tell you, but it wasn’t their ethics. The European continent is incredibly poor for the types of agriculture in which slavery is useful. Slavery was dying out as an unprofitable venture for a full century before it was finally abolished. The same was true in the United States, where it was only the invention of the cotton gin which saved the institution, making slave labor economical again, even while it retarded the economic development of the South which had no need to industrialize. But to answer the question of Europe, slavery wasn’t profitable in the way it was elsewhere. We like to think that morality is why we did things that were right and profit why we did things that were wrong. As a thorough study of history makes clearer, incentives actually determines what is done, and morality invented later is how we justify what we did.

Finally, while America’s usage of slavery isn’t something we can, and I doubt ever could, brag about, what is unique in humanity’s history is what we did next. People like to speak at length about America’s struggles internally with racism following the Civil War, but what is rarely mentioned is how the United States fought, literally with Marines, against slavery overseas. Since I believe nothing is altruistic, this was most likely done because the United States did not want to compete with people utilizing the unfair advantage of slavery. But following our Civil War, the United States forced the diplomatic acceptance of abolition on many of the countries where the practice was still common, such as Brazil, the last major hold out in the Americas, Asia, as well as the epicenter of slavery, Africa.

While Europe abolished slavery early on (while in many parts being fine with varying forms of serfdom, which is essentially the same thing, but whatever) it was the Americans forcing the issue that caused millions to be freed outside our borders. This was also while we were still just a fledgling world power, and when the Europeans could have done far more with their expansive empires to fix.

I would like, just once, for that to get a mention.

Am I saying that slavery in America was great? No, but I am saying that you had better be prepared to answer the questions of what was going on in the rest of the world before treating the United States as if they are uniquely bad in history.

And exactly which Americans are we talking about?

Next we have to also talk about the frustration that many Americans feel about the fact that critics likes to say that any bad thing done by particular people is the fault of ALL Americans. It’s very frustrating to be told that generalizations are bigotry, then to have all of American history lumped together, as if the incredibly well known factional nature of our country has not always been a part of our culture.

Sorry, but factions also matter when judging American faults. Without trying to get far too political, most of the self-hating Americans do so for reasons like like slavery, systemic racism, things like how the Americans treated the Native Americans, and internment of the Japanese during World War II. Here, we need to also have a talk about the fact that most of those same people are mainly young revolutionary minded people who consistently vote for Democrats. Why does that matter? Because it wasn’t Republicans responsible for any of those things. Literally, the worst decisions in American history, by far the most, ranging from the internment of the Japanese, the exile of Native Americans, or nearly the entire history of American murderous racism towards the blacks, is inextricably linked to one party. Nobody is perfect and the Republicans have their share of faulty misgivings (again, by contemporary standards), but to say that the worst elements of American history is owed to all Americans when one particular group played a far larger part in that story is radically dishonest. Considering the factions involved, you see that it was never correct to talk about “The Americans,” when only some Americans have far more to explain.

You want to say that the parties have flipped, that the Republicans are the real party of racists today? We can have that discussion, and no I don’t agree because details matter. But at least now we are starting to have a real discussion. But to act as if Republicans are responsible for things they didn’t do, the far greater crimes of history owned by the Democrats?

We can have that discussion as well. But what is strangest to me is that our nation is dealing with criticisms on the basis of America’s institutional bigotry, where racism was written into our founding documents and founding laws and founding institutions and because of this, no amount of reform or repentance can change that. Because racism did exist at the time of our founding, it will always be embedded in our culture and written into every part of our life. That so many of these people consistently vote Democrat is wildly paradoxical to me. It is the party of slavery, Jim Crowe, and the KKK.

To put another way, if contemporary critics are fine with saying things like “Bush’s War” and referring to America’s warlike tendencies to a fault specifically owed to the Republicans, then you can’t dilute the problems (even the contemporary problems) of the other party as simply being owed to “Americans” sans the party distinction.

If you believe that institutional bigotry means that institutions can never truly reform and must be completely dismantled at the institutional level, as many say of America for the crimes of centuries past, then you simply can’t say that as a Democrat. If, however, you see that nations, institutions, parties, and individuals are perfectly capable of reform, then you can’t argue that institutional bigotry explains the problems that people face today.

Do you think the world is better without us?

Finally, if you’re willing to say that the United States is horrible, are you also willing to acknowledge that, during our time in power, the world has experienced the greatest golden age in world history and that this greatness is owed to us?

Probably not, but here are a few things to consider. America is called a warmonger nation. We fight where others don’t. Do you really understand why?

You’re reading it.

The power to read this answer is owed to many things. It requires the prosperity of a trade network that can send and deliver an unimaginable amount of goods across the world to the lowest bidder without the burden of a central planner (an empire) to do it. Back during the times of empire, you had to have one ruling nation that had a colony where there was a raw resource, then another where there were others, then another elsewhere. Then, all those goods had to be shipped back to the motherland where they were processed into goods that were mostly only available to the heart of the empire. But following World War II, something new happened. It was clear that the United States would absorb the role of sole naval superpower, but instead of dictating terms for a new global empire, America did something different. They said, “Look, we’ll provide the Navy, and everyone is free to trade with everyone else. You just have to get along.”

That was it. That was the one rule. Don’t screw up the trade network. It sounds ridiculously simply, overly simple, but that’s essentially what came out of the a seemingly inconsequential meeting of world leaders at a golf course hotel in Breton Woods, New Hampshire in July 1944. There, the groundwork was laid for a post World War II economic environment where everyone who was part of the global trade network would be mostly free to trade with anyone else, so long as they didn’t upset the network. The United States, rather than taxing every trade, or inspecting every cargo, would simply ensure that everyone kept sailing. Why? Because we didn’t want to bother with empire and, as the largest manufacturer in the world, we had more to gain from the world’s freedom than from enslaving it.

But, because we did, we introduced a freedom to the world that made it possible for people to do things that was never possible before. In spite of America also being the largest gifter of free charity in the world, both in the giving of it’s entrepreneur class and donations of services like the deployment of the USS Mercy and USS Comfort, our real contributions allowed people on their own to do far, far more. People on one side of the world could take what they had, no matter how small, and give it to people on the other side of the world for some gain. And because of this, little by little, the world got richer, healthier, began living longer, began dying less of preventable disease, went to war less, and got to know each other better.

This would not have happened without the United States first making it possible that the entire world formally met on a grand stage. Second, it would not have continued if not for the United States guaranteeing the safety of ships sailing around the world to deliver the raw goods, processed materials, and finished products. While many people seem to not understand, this means things. American leadership drastically changed the world and not just for the better. We are living through a miracle.

We could talk about these graphs, and many more, all day long, but they point to one very clear reality. When the United States took charge following the most horrific period in human history, we did so in a new way, one which didn’t center all power and wealth on us, but which spread it. More than that, it made it possible for the first time in history for people to benefit from their own activity and keep the wealth they built, which returned wealth to their communities, giving hope and prosperity to places which had never before dreamed of it. Is there perfect equality in this? No, but there is hope.

Altruistic and socialistic schemes didn’t achieve that. America did. They did it by doing nothing, just setting up a network and letting the genius and drive of billions of individual people make everyone richer. It was one of the few times in history where what was good for us was good for everyone else.

Well, not everyone. There were people who tried to screw with that system. When Saddam Hussein tried to create a regional power in the 1990s, it forced our hand. The North Koreans also threatened their region and the global trade network, as did all communist regimes until the fall of the Soviet Union. We defended the network, and how did the world thank us?

By calling us warmongers.

I don’t really care. You’re reading this on a phone or computer, most likely designed based on American patents, using an internet built by Americans, built through a trade network defended almost exclusively by American lives and taxpayer dollars. And yet, at no point in your lives will you ever face an American demanding compensation for that. The following is a map asking the countries of the world who the biggest threat to the stability of the world is. Awesome. Simply put, wait until we leave and see who you call demanding help.

So I don’t care if the rest of the world hates us. It’s hypocritical because anyone can say that bad things shouldn’t happen, but can you solve the problems that America has solved?

No.

It frankly doesn’t bother me that China, Brazil, Russia, or even Australia don’t like that the United States ensures that no one is allowed to form their own regional choke-holds on international trade. Instead, while it may not mean that you can do whatever you want to your neighbors, it does mean that the rest of the world is better off. That’s saying that you could be freer to move against your neighbors, but you wouldn’t have access to cheap oil, cheap food, and cheap electronics from around the world. So it doesn’t surprise me that nations view us as the cause of instability, when they haven’t been free to screw up things since the 1940s. That was the end of the last time that America retreated to itself and let the world take care of itself. It’s strange that a bit more humility hasn’t survived that lesson.

Without the United States, the world would still be locked in the pattern of constant genocide that was the design of the rest of its history. So when people who have a history as “colorful” as Europe or, well really anywhere, lecture Americans on their warlike nature… it’s laughable. We go to war, and because we do, the world gets wealthier. That’s not just us — billions of people are better off because the choices we make. Literally no one has done this before the Americans.

The difference is that it is very easy to judge someone else when your choices don’t affect anyone else. You are free to hate someone who makes decisions that are hard when you’re not even able to hurt others if you tried. Why? Because we would show up to stop you —- because we’re the warmongers. Everyone hates the person at the top of the hill. It’s a human universal, no matter how much that person is trying to bring more people onto the hill with them. Americans really don’t have to care that the rest of the world hates us because frankly, there’s a great deal of satisfaction in knowing that even you know you’re better off with us than anyone in history.


All that said, Americans take exception to criticisms of the United States when they fail to do a few things.

  • When you fail to acknowledge the good work that the United States has done for the world… it’s hard to take you seriously for saying that we are so bad.
  • When you judge the United States of the past compared to ethics of today… it’s hard to care about your morals.
  • When you fail to compare the United States to its own contemporary powers… it’s hard to have faith in your understanding of history.

It boils down to a belief that America is unique, in that we are allowed to ignore anyone else in the world, all people in the world really, for all time, and act as if America is defined by bad choices. We don’t compare it to anyone else, and we don’t acknowledge that the world is obviously a better place because of America’s influence in it.

When people fail to see this, instead place blinders on their hearts and their minds to only see a toxic and hateful history of bigotry and violence, as if it is all America was and everyone else in the world simply looked on in horror of our unique barbarity, then I can’t help but dismiss your criticisms.

If, however, you can say to me the truth, that America is a very special country that has made the world a far better place, and that should it disappear from the world stage, it would be a horrible disaster for everyone, save maybe the Americans themselves, then we can talk. There is much about America that I wish never happened. There is much today that I wish weren’t happening now. America isn’t perfect; it never was. But it was and is great and not just because it is powerful. It is great because it is the first undisputed superpower in history and with that, it didn’t crush the world with a cleansing fire of persecution and terror. It made a world that had nearly obliterated itself better. It made billions of people healthier, wealthier, and happier. More than that, it gave them hope.

If you can acknowledge those things, then I can hear you about things that could make us even better. That’s because I love my country, because even at its worst, it’s a place where nearly everyone wants to be.