Student: America not world’s best

As I watched the Democratic National Convention the other day, I couldn’t help but be moved to emotion by the eloquence of the speakers. All of their speeches seemed to bring up wells of emotion, and move me almost to tears. I found myself almost nodding my head along the crowd of some 20,000 people, saying to myself, “Yes, we can make the the future better for our posterity! Yes, we are all in this together!”

While all this emotion was welling up from inside of me, I was simultaneously and distinctly aware that I was being manipulated.

Yes, I know that political speeches are made to convince people that this or that candidate is the best choice — everyone is aware of that from the onset. What really surprised me was how much the rhetoric was aimed not at explaining why one party had the better candidate (although there was still plenty of that), but rather at proclaiming how the United States of America was the most superior country in the history of the world.

Now, I don’t want to get into the argument about which country is the “best” country in the world, but instead want to raise the question: What has any of that got to do with proving why one candidate is superior to another? In short, absolutely nothing.

All this rhetoric about the United States being the greatest country on earth only serves to incite the emotions and passions of voters. Each candidate seems to believe that if he can incite enough positive nationalistic feelings associated with their campaign, then they will win the votes of the people. And with the way politics seems to be run these days, who could blame them?

Strangely enough, that manipulation of voter patriotism is not the thing that upset me the most about the speeches made at both of the political parties’ conventions.

What upset me was the fact that I thought politics had finally grown up out of this mentality that “America will always be the number one nation in the world,” and “We have to work hard to beat the other countries in their quest for becoming number one!”

Aphorisms like these are so common in modern politics that few people ever raise the question: Why does America have to be number one, anyway? What sort of juvenile competitiveness motivates us to be so blinded as to say that people in America are the smartest, most creative, and hardest working people in the world?

I may sound unpatriotic or even treasonous, but I’m not. I just can’t convince myself that because I happened to be born in the United States, I am more intelligent, creative, and hard-working than someone born in China or Africa or Europe.

Yes, America is a great country, and yes, we have pioneered the technological revolution and redefined the industries of all types, but that does not mean that people in our country are better than anyone else, or that great achievements don’t happen in other countries all over the world as well.

What really upset me about the political conventions this week was not any of the actual “politics” being discussed, but the underlying mindset of the American people that they revealed.

As I begin my journey through higher education, and ultimately enter the “real world,” I hope that Americans can move away from the mindset of “We have to beat the Chinese by out-educating our students so our engineers and scientists can compete with them,” to one recognizing that all of us in every country share the same goals and dreams, that we all want to be successful and happy in the world, regardless of our nationality.

I hope that American can finally grow up and realize that this competition between nations to be the “best” is unnecessary, and that together as an international community, we could accomplish and achieve so much more than we ever could by ourselves.

I stand behind my country as a citizen, but I stand first behind the world as a member of humanity, and refuse to place the welfare of our citizens over the welfare of the rest of the world.

Derek Wolter

Peachtree City Ga.

[Wolter, 19, says he is currently attending Oglethorpe University in north Atlanta.]

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