Yes, America is arrogant. Isn’t it great?

Brian Kutzley and Brian Kutzley

I doubt too many out there will debate the point that the United States of America – as a populace, a nation, and an institution – is incredibly arrogant. What they might debate is my second point: This arrogance is quite possibly our greatest attribute. While I can sympathize with those who proclaim that “dissent is the highest form of patriotism” (there are certainty things I would change) it is still vital that we not forget the significance and glory of the not-so-young experiment of the United States.

The U.S. is a superpower. In many ways it is the last remaining superpower, the balance of power against all others, the global hegemony – however you phrase it, America is on top. Many argue that we are losing our status and driving away our allies. My response would be something along the lines of “so what?” Only the blindly patriotic or horribly na’ve believe it is possible to retain global dominance for a thousand years. That does not make our nation any less great. I find it irrelevant that our gross domestic product is no longer equal to the entire outside world combined. I find it irrelevant that the production capacity of a unified Europe may well exceed our own. Simply put, that is not all that makes a great nation.

What is it about the ancient world – Greece and Rome – that we consider great? Demographically, they were insignificant next to China, India and even Central America. They held a great deal of economic power, but still insignificant compared to the trade routes of the Arab world. Rome may have held a massive empire, but those conquests are almost an afterthought to the more interesting components of Roman existence. Greek culture was spread across the region, but only through being conquered by a man who happened to have a son we now know as Alexander the Great. So why our fascination with these cultures?

I will give you a hint: the answer is not institutionalized racism. The answer is ideas – immortal, incorruptible, virtually incontrovertible ideas. These people created ideas and concepts that were studied by Europeans and Arabs alike. The works of Aristotle provided the basis for all scientific development for nearly 2,000 years, to say nothing of his forbearers, from Pythagoras to Plato. Rome produced similar, if less iconic, social and scientific epiphanies. And now the torch has been passed to the United States of America.

“We hold these truths to be self evident” is a phrase that we too often take for granted. Yet that phrase, and the accompanying philosophy, shattered everything the world knew about governance, and human nature itself. As a side note, to posit that the concepts of the U.S. Declaration of Independence and Constitution are merely adaptations of the English Magna Carta is no more to the point than saying Columbus did not discover that the world was round because medieval scientists had long since believed so. That does not change the fact that it took a man of the sheer stubborn determination of Christopher Columbus to sail in the wrong direction. And it took a collection of astonishing individuals never before or since rivaled, to create the United States of America.

I feel compelled now to turn to a few less savory issues. It is true that America has not always been a beacon of acceptance and morality. Perhaps various conflicts with the Indians can be excused as provoked or reciprocated warfare, but as a simple point of fact, our European ancestors were brutal, racist invaders. And this is to say nothing of slavery. Perhaps we have not sufficiently expunged the pain of this memory. Perhaps there is no way to do so. But we, as a modern society, should have outgrown the stigma of the sins of our fathers. Even if the responsibility falls to us, the guilt should not. Most importantly, every part of the world is carved in bloodshed, from Europe to China to the modern Middle East. Our massacres are just recent enough to still burn in our memories.

To attempt to synthesize these points, I understand that America is not perfect. It is, however, one of the greatest countries to ever exist. It is a fitting tribute to our excellence that we build monuments for our greatest leaders – Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln – to the wars we have fought and to the ideas we cherish. And it is a fitting tribute to the legacy we carry that those monuments resemble neither mansions nor castles, but the temples of the ancients. For regardless of future economic or military strength, ours is truly the greatest nation on Earth.