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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Not the "Greatest Country in the World," But Getting There

Lt. Ross weds Dan SwezyIs the United States the greatest country in the world? Not if you look at the facts. Our infant mortality rate is worse than forty other nations, we rank in the middle of all nations in terms of income inequality, and we compare poorly with the rest of the world when it comes to people living in poverty. "America is the greatest nation in the world" is something you're supposed to say if asked, maybe even believe, but by most measures it simply isn't true.

Which is why progressives exist. People on the right like to point to progressives' skepticism about this whole "greatest country in the world" stuff to paint us as America-haters. This is poor logic. The person who loves something is the person who's willing to do the work to fix it when it starts falling behind. Leaving everything be and hoping for the best is laziness, not love. Progress means there's always room for improvement, while conservatism believes that everything is fine the way it is -- in fact, it's the belief that things are worse than they used to be. Which explains why they're all busy trying to undo the 20th century.

And it explains why real progress toward real liberty sticks in their craw. As Don't Ask, Don't Tell ends today, it's important to mark a milestone of American progress toward being the greatest country in the world.

Associated Press:

Just as the formal repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy took effect, Navy Lt. Gary Ross and his partner were married before a small group of family and friends.


The two men, who'd been together 11 years, decided to marry in Vermont in part because the state is in the Eastern time zone.

That way, they were able to recite their vows at the stroke of midnight - at the first possible moment after the ban ended.

"I think it was a beautiful ceremony. The emotions really hit me... but it's finally official," Ross said early Tuesday.

The end of DADT and a gay marriage? The world stubbornly refused to end.

Michele Bachmann has said that, if elected president, she would reinstate DADT. In fact, at a GOP presidential debate in New Hampshire, only Ron Paul and -- surprisingly -- Herman Cain said they wouldn't support reinstating the ban.

A lot of this is just pandering to their base, of course. Change can be a little frightening and no one is more fear-responsive than the hardcore rightwing nut. And no one is more reactionary than the conservative politician. When they see fear in the eyes of their audiences, they exploit it. Is that any way to become the greatest country in the world?

The point here is that change is good. It makes us a better people. And if it means abandoning old values, it says more about those archaic values than it does about the change that brought about that abandonment. It used to be considered immoral for a black man to marry a white woman, now it's considered immoral to oppose that marriage on the basis of race. Has America become better or worse since that particular "value" was left behind?

If we accept that the changes that have come before us have been good, by what measure can you argue that change from here on out becomes bad? It's completely arbitrary and illogical. We aren't a perfect society and, until we are, we will always need to improve -- both as a people and a nation. Progress or stagnation are our choices.

There's a word for people who ignore problems in those they love and pretend everything is perfect -- enablers. It's the people who recognize imperfections and failings and try to help correct them who demonstrate a more nurturing love.

Maybe neither group loves more, but one loves better.


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