It seems as if the belief that the U.S. is number one in everything is ingrained in our DNA. After all, we beat the Nazis and kept the world safe for democracy. It doesn't matter that the Soviet Union actually defeated the bulk of Hitler's forces.
According to many, we have the best health care system in the world. It didn't matter that in the recent past, about one out of six of us lacked health care insurance. This lack meant unnecessary suffering and deaths because costs deterred uninsured people from using the emergency room unless they were truly desperate. In reality, the U.S. system fares very poorly in comparisons with other developed nations.
Regarding the U.S. education system, in 2012, the Economist Intelligence Unit rated our system as the 17th best out of the 40 developed countries.
One key finding from the study was that "Good teachers are essential to high-quality education. Finding and retaining them is not necessarily a question of high pay. Instead, teachers need to be treated as the valuable professionals they are, not as technicians in a huge, educational machine." Not exactly how we view teachers.
The rich-poor gap in the U.S. is among the largest in the developed world and, according to a 2013 UNICEF study, our child well-being is ranked among the worst in the developed world.
The U.S. physical infrastructure also ranks poorly when compared to other developed nations.
On the Social Progress Index, a measure of how a country does in delivering a high quality life for its citizens, the U.S. ranked 16th.
We talk about human rights and democracy. However, we undermined democratically elected leaders in, for example, Iran, Guatemala and Chile, whereas we supported dictators around the world. We have violated international law by attacking nations such as Vietnam and Iraq that were not an imminent threat to us. Unsurprisingly, in a recent survey of 65 countries the U.S. was viewed as the greatest threat to world peace.
We should face reality and work to improve our performance. The following quote gives some insight into our situation. In a Sept. 12, 2013, article on the Psychology Today website, Ray Williams quoted Mahatma Gandhi's observation about the roots of conflict and violence within a nation are "wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, worship without sacrifice, and politics without principle."
The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center's "Peace Train" column runs every Friday in the Colorado Daily.