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I Live in the Best Country in the World

I hope I never hear this one come out of my son’s mouth. Never.

I’ve been hearing this statement way too often. Especially in the past four or five years, since Mr. George Bush managed to spark and engage in another war, and since he managed to significantly damage the economy of the US. I’ve been hearing it from Republicans (from whom nothing can really surprise me anymore) and Democrats alike. I’ve been hearing it from the intelligent people that I actually like listening to on WHYY while my son and I are eating breakfast or lunch, or I am cooking dinner and he is playing around me. That’s what my experience sometimes looks like. I am listening to this great interview, I am impressed with both the interviewer (asking usually great questions) and the interviewee, and then there might be a mention of some book that the interviewer has written, and I am trying to quickly find a pen in our far-from-organized house, and in the moment when I have everything I need, the pen and a piece of paper, I hear something like this:…and we will continue to be…regain the status of the best country in the world.

And that really gets me, “the best country in the world.” What does that mean? How do you determine what country is the best country in the world? What criteria do you use? Is it possible to narrow down the world to one country that is “the best country in the world”? Best for whom? How can one country possibly be best for all different people out there, different value systems, different philosophical orientations? How good is the US for those that are just below or even above the ridiculous poverty level?(Really, don’t you find the poverty levels determined by the Department of Health and Human Services plainly ridiculous? A family of three to live on $ 18,530? I’d like someone, ideally one of the those calling the US the best country in the world, to show me how exactly that could work.) Another question comes to mind: Isn’t it sad, infinitely sad, that so many people – so many people – do not have access to the health system that is one of the best in the world? How about the elderly? How about those like me in 2005, that might have been informed on a Monday that that coming Friday was their last day because the employer could not afford to keep them anymore, and of course, in this best country in the world, the focus is always on the company/profit, and never on the employees/people?

So I’ll stop right here. I don’t want to be overly critical. I have actually developed a liking for this country. After all, it has given me something that was so important to me, and that I wouldn’t have ever found in Serbia, at least not in the Serbia of the nineties: some reasonable education that included basic respect for me as an individual and a student. This is the country where my son was born. This is the country where my husband was born and raised. This is the country where most of my friends were born and raised. So, I have a large investment in this country. But that “best country in the world”  I really can’t take. I simply don’t understand it. And I hope my son never spits it out at me because that will be a proof that I have failed as a parent. I really don’t want him to aim for any kind of general “best,” or to ever believe that’s he has accomplished that ultimate best (what a great recipe for arrogance!). Maybe “best” for him. And that implies that that “best” will never be the “best” that’s best for everyone.

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