I’ve always thought it was strange how foreign news agencies devote so much coverage to the United States of America. I understand that we are the worldʼs most powerful nation, in terms of economic and military might, and as such the actions taken by Americans and the US government have far reaching, global effects — especially in the globalized, 21st century world. I understand that. But I still found it a little strange. America isnʼt the only important nation on earth, yet RT doesnʼt have an entire section devoted to China on its website; The Guardian isnʼt renown for its coverage of Saudi Arabian politics; and we rarely see more than one article about Germany on the BBC homepage.
I think I understand it now. The United States isn’t so widely covered because of our importance alone, but because of our mythology. In so many ways, the rest of the world looks to America for guidance, for an idea of what the future will hold. The USA plays the role of something of a global leader, and I think it’s important to understand why.
The United States became the symbol of democracy after a century of global revolutions. The words of Thomas Jefferson, the inspiring speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr, and the inscription on the Statue of Liberty inspire people about freedom and a brighter future all around the globe, even in nations that have suffered under US policies. Semantics and speciﬁcs aside, the American soldier became an ideal after the fall of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan rang the supposed death knell of fascism. For nearly a century, people from all around the world left their homes, their lives, and sometimes even their families to build a better life in the “land of opportunity.”
Maybe most of it is mythology. I won’t even begin to suggest that the USA has lived up to all of those lofty promises. We are a nation that was founded on the conﬂicting ideals of liberty and capitalism that engaged in genocide and practiced slavery, after all. But even if the American story is the single greatest work of ﬁction, it still holds power. Fiction can be just as powerful as fact in the mind of humankind. Every religious text or holy book accuses the others of being ﬁction to some degree, yet all are capable of inspiring their believers to tremendous acts of compassion and aggression. Every political ideology presents itself as the future of the human race, and, yet, every single one of them has bred revolutionaries willing to face impossible odds.
America has led the world for decades on the merits of its mythology, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. For a variety of reasons, it will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. This is why it’s important we claim this moment, this truly pivotal moment in history. What we do today will stretch on throughout the rest of the 21st century.
What will we do? Will we risk ourselves for peace, or will we propagate war? Will we reclaim the mantle of democracy, or lay ourselves at the mercy of a corporate aristocracy in the name of capitalism? Will we create the worldʼs greatest scientists again, or will we chain the minds of the future to the rock of debt? Will we accept a creeping fascism, or will we harken to a generation we lionized for sending that same fascism to hell? Will we stand up to racism, sexism, homophobia and hatred, or will we turn our back on equality?
Now isnʼt the time to cry out for help. Now is the time to cry out for power. The power we were told we always had. The power to be both free and just. The power to determine our own lives, the power to enrich ourselves and each other instead of one or the other. The power to lead the world through our example, not through our might. Will we take that power, that most American of ideals? Will we become the nation we have always said we were, and always wanted to be? Better ﬁgure that out quick — the whole world is watching.