Ironically, for a country that boasts freedom of speech as the most important value for a society, any criticism concerning an aspect of the modern life in the US is viewed as unpatriotic and unacceptable Without denying the fact that living in the United States has numerous positive features, there are also several harsh realities to account for, especially for minorities and low-income citizens.
In a democratic system, people should take advantage of their rights and perform a lucid analysis of their society rather than accept the bedtime stories that the politicians and their corporate masters feed them via the media. Let’s take a short tour of the most common misconstructions regarding the modern United States society.
1. America is strictly a meritocratic society
The ideology that hard work and perseverance represent the key to success in America is commendable, yet inapplicable in the real world. In fact, many times authorities and privately owned companies will fail the average/low income American citizen. At the same time, excellence in your field and a good work ethic will not always provide sufficient leverage for transcending poverty. To put it simply, the original meritocracy concept has evolved towards oligarchy and financial/social stratifications become increasingly obvious.
2. There is equality between all citizens of the US
Are marriages between partners of the same sex considered legal yet? How long ago were the laws concerning the civil rights, the voting and the benefits of disabled citizens introduced? And, more importantly, why did these laws have to be established? That’s right, because the society in the US has a historical inclination for marginalizing certain minorities. There is no such thing as equality unless it is mandated by the law and sometimes, not even then.
3. Things were better in the good old days
When we are speaking about the good old days in America, we are typically referring to the 50s, a period that was allegedly all about simplicity, every citizen knew his role in society and life was bliss. However, let’s not forget that it was also a time of segregation and the fact that this idealized picture of the US in the 50s represents nothing more and nothing less than a carefully constructed marketing campaign. Rather than construct a society that adapts to the people, the role of this campaign is to make people adapt to a predetermined dogma with domineering gender dynamics and inflexible class systems.
4. We’re all living the “American Dream”
Again, the idealistic representation of the “American Dream” has few things in common with reality. In short it has been replaced by aggressive banking practices, vanishing retirement funds, fraudulent credit institutions, sky high interest rates, foreclosures at every turn, so on and so forth. And these are just a few of the barriers that stand between the average income citizen and the “American Dream”.
5. This country was founded on the idea of freedom
Well, if you examine the early history of America, you will notice that it was founded on the principles of slavery and segregation rather than freedom. The concept of freedom refers mostly to the autonomy of the white population and the condemnable practices against different color minorities continued for centuries. At the same time African, Latino and Asian immigrant communities were not assimilated into the mainstream until much later.
6. The US is the melting pot of cultures
Randomly interviewing American citizens on the street will reveal that most of them believe that the country represents a “melting pot”, a concept that was carefully planted in their in their consciences even though its significance is not fully understood. The harsh reality is that the US still follows the original white Anglo-Saxon traditions and it is a country based on the Judeo Christian moral belief system.
7. All rich people have humble beginnings
The almost credible stories of millionaires who started with basically nil are nothing more than incentives for the masses to do their best in order to achieve greatness. Although some of these tales are actually true, the vast majority of extremely wealthy Americans (the notorious one percent) belong to family legacies and had all the advantages of people born in the upper class. In terms of financial/education mobility, America is certainly not the most prolific country in the world.
8. The history of the United States is entirely glorious
In this case, the problem resides with the education system in the US that has a propensity towards skipping the less glorious parts of the US history. At the same time, it tends to ignore the credit certain non-white communities deserve for the development of the country (for instance, the Chinese who helped in the construction of the transcontinental railway). There are numerous points in the historical evolution of the United States that would cause far too much discomfort to mention (Japanese internment camps in WW2).
9. The justice system is 100% fair
Time and time again has shown that the blindfolded statue holding a sword and a scale is not a fair representation of the US justice system. There are disproportionate penalties for crimes, the members of the Black/Latino minorities are excessively portrayed as “convict material”, logical fallacies – consider the legislation that regulates powder cocaine and crack sentencing – and racial disparities. In addition to these aspects, the concept of a functioning justice system does not sit well with the world’s highest prison population if you think about it.
10. The greatest country in the whole world
The false notion of excellence imbedded in the conscience of the average American citizen became popular due to its overall ambiguity. In other words, almost everybody in the US will tell you that it is the best country in the world. However, that person would most likely fail to answer a follow-up question on how exactly America outclasses the other states. When you consider aspects such as child mortality rates, average test score results, healthcare system performance and income/wealth discrepancy, the US is mediocre at best. On the other hand, our higher education institutions are the best in the world.