Thank god this election is almost over. The two halves of this country get so collectively stupid that I’ve started to feel like I’m at a rock show: getting pushed around by moshers while security swings their Mag-Lights at them through me.
I’m ready for news cycles filled with the usual inanity of missing white girls and celebrity infidelity, as opposed to the latest political talking points, like “Joe the Plumber” and, of course, “America’s #1.”
What does it mean, really, when some moron says that America’s the greatest and bestest country, numero uno amongst the other entire 192 principalities people call home?
How do you rank a country?
If there’s anything I recall from 7th grade social studies, it’s that no country can be boiled down to one aspect … except for Moldavia, renowned solely for its hybrid goat-sheep. You have to take form of government, gross national product, participation record in World War II and number of English speakers into account. And some countries get wild-card rank bumps, like for inventing drinking holidays or sex positions.
For argument sake, let’s examine the category of food. Italy gets into at least the Top Ten for inventing pizza, which they named after the tower that almost collapsed from all its toppings. But, Mexico took their design and improved it, inventing Mexican pizza, which they named after their capital city that always smells like queso.
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So, does that mean Mexico should rank higher than Italy for making pizza gasier? Or should they be penalized for essentially adding an explosive element to a Ford and calling it a Pinto? Of course, America still comes out on top because we managed to develop both the breakfast burrito and the breakfast pizza, but does that seal our Numbah One spot? We’re still the country that invented Mountain Dew.
What if America wins more silver medals than gold ones in the Olympics? Are we officially Number Two, then? Could we drop to Number Three if we only win the bronze?
Questions like these lead to a bigger one:
Who is qualified to rank countries?
As illustrated above, ranking countries is a long, laborious task requiring the patience of Helen Keller at a performance of Tommy. I find it highly suspect whenever anyone claims to have ranked the United States as Number One above all other countries.
First off, how much time did they devote to this vetting process? And if they really dedicated a lot of time to placing each of 192 sovereign nations in an ascending list of awesomeness, how long have they held onto these earth-shattering results, waiting for it to come up in conversation?
I am rarely embarrassed for other people, but I feel a little sympathetic when an idiot explains why America is better than any other country in world:
America is the greatest country on the face of the Earth!
How do you figure?
All of our freedoms! Try living in Communist China or Nazi Germany! AMERICA: Number One, Baby!
Therefore, it is critical that the ranker of countries must be able to reasonably present their argument. While, yes, America is certainly better than Stalinist Russia or Nazi Germany, so are many other countries: when it comes to being a country, the USSR and Adolfville were basically the worst at it, unless you are rating a country on the basis of camp food or genocide numbers. Beating the Detroit Lions does not a Super Bowl Champion make, but it would be a dubious champion who couldn’t.
It is within reason then to expect the ranker to have at least a second place country, a runner-up or “Most Congenial.”
Second, what was the basis of their decision? Was it the number of granted rights? George Carlin was kind enough to list countries with a larger quantity of rights in their constitutions than we have in our Bill of Rights: the U.K. (13), Germany (29) and Belgium (25).
Could you base it on murder rates? Literature? Box Office numbers?
Military might? You can’t say we’re the most powerful nation on Earth if we still can’t mop up two sandboxes in eight years. Plus, we haven’t won the most wars in history, just the latest (excluding Vietnam and the ongoing Korea saga … oh, and the Civil War if you’re from a Southern State).
Method of government? We weren’t the first democracy or republic, and we won’t be the last.
Economically? We can barely sell our own cars at home; everything else is made in China, Mexico or Malaysia; and the Euro and the British pound have outperformed the US dollar for the past couple of years.
None of that is to say that we’re the worst at those things, we just might not be the Number One seed. Who knows? The BCS is political, anyway.
Finally, what kind of personal qualifications should the ranker hold? Do they need some sort of degree, or will my previously mentioned 7th grade social studies class suffice? (Pretty sure I pulled a B.)
Should there be a patriotism sobriety test where the ranker is required to name all 192 countries without singing the Animaniacs‘ “Nations of the World?” If they manage it but seem a little wobbly, then should they be able to do it on one foot?
Should bias be taken into account? How many people wouldn’t list their country in the Number One spot? It makes a better list if it was compiled objectively, but how do you convince a country fan that Toby Keith doesn’t make this collection of 50 states the greatest collection of 50 states anywhere? Hell, in certain countries (that will not rank Number One) you’re not allowed to make a list unless your country is in your Top Eight.
Even if the ranker did not plan to put the U.S. at the top, what if his wife is from another country, and she actually likes it there? This raises all sorts of questions about this person’s personal need to rank countries. He could rank spitefully or for a Valentine’s present. He might have a girlfriend from another country, throwing of his list because he rates her home a 10, though she’s clearly a 7.
All of this confusion leads to a final question:
What’s the point?
Yes, patriotism: the most useless, overinflated characteristic in the world.
It doesn’t go on our resume. We don’t look for it in babysitters.
It doesn’t make us more informed, better looking or more fun at parties.
We don’t show it off until we’re part of the crowd: everyone in America is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day and American on Independence Day, despite actual citizenship status.
And the ones that show the most of it on a daily basis waste it on useless phrases and gestures, like, “We’re Number One.”