Questioning that America is number one is considered almost treasonous in some quarters. Lately, however, "the party is over" sentiments are crowding out the "we're number one" assertions in the national conversation.
Americans are for the most part decent and hard-working people, and many have envied our democracy and the liberties we enjoy, even if we've strayed from our ideals too often. How did we get in this perceived our-best-days-are-over shape?
Our military spending exceeds that of the rest of world combined. We have a penchant for invading countries and running wars off the books. We are number one in energy consumption but are ranked 37th in health care and 46th in infant mortality rates in the world. U.S. students trail in math and science rankings. We have staggering levels of personal debt, and we have a huge national debt we owe to people who don't necessarily have our best interests at heart.
How did we get to the top of the heap in the first place?
America had a seemingly endless frontier and was rich in natural resources. There was a seemingly endless stream of immigrants who helped America to grow. For years after World War II the U.S. improved its lead in commerce because much of the rest of the industrialized world was bombed flat or bankrupt.
Given these conditions, being the world's preeminent nation in so many areas for so many years was almost a foregone conclusion.
No nation has ever stayed on top forever. Some of the historical factors that put us on top are no longer there. However, the U.S. has been actively hastening its own demise. The breaking of the housing bubble and the near total world financial crash comes first to mind.
What's the solution?
I went to the Rally to Restore Sanity in D.C., enjoyed it immensely, and would offer its message of "I disagree with you but I'm pretty sure you're not Hitler" as a starting point. We need to realize we can't afford the luxury of "if we just did this" solutions any longer. We need to realize the only way to slow or stop the slide is by sacrifices by all parts of society.
The future doesn't need to be that grim, unless we dig in our heels, defend our turfs to the last breath, and refuse responsible action.