Maybe We Never Were the Best
By now most people have seen or heard about HBO’s new summer series Newsroom written and executive produced by Aaron Sorkin (writer of The Social Network). While the show itself has garnered much praise and criticism alike, what has really caught the attention of many is the series opening clip in which the main character ,cable news anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) a guest on a college panel erupts into a diatribe about why America is not the best country in the world.
The first half of this rant plays out like most criticism about this nations current shortcomings. The main character rattles off our failures (7th in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life, 178th in infant mortality and our exorbitant defense spending among other things . All valid and concerning points that have begun to cause interesting debates about the cause troubling statistics and the direction that this country.Recently Exxon released a commercial in which it showed its initiative to help restore America to its “rightful place” among the top in science , and math. All things considered Will McAvoy’s assessment is correct, partisan sentiments aside. A stance that I could agree with until about the 3:30 mark where he leads into a righteous look back on when “we stood up for what was right.” As I continued to watch I began to get a sinking feeling in my stomach as I watched the monologue become a romantic and frothy depiction of a very different reality and history where McAvoy soberly says” we looked of for our neighbors, we put our money where our mouth was and waged moral fights”.
I couldn’t help but scoff that sure, maybe for him a man benefiting from a white patriarchal privilege had experienced the “best of times” but what about the untold stories of those minority individuals(Hispanics,Blacks, Asians , the LGBT community) in the room had it really been the best country in the world for them 60 years ago? Sure we might not have made technological advances that are quite as outwardly impressive to the average American as sending a man to the moon, or easily bombed any country that opposed us to smithereens as if we had never begun a war to begin with but things have in some ways. Civil rights mostly importantly been gained. President Obama , our first African American president, became the highest ranking official seated in office to come out in support of same-sex marriage , a basic civil right that has long been denied. In 1963 a not so neighborly acs of crosses burning on the lawns of African Americans were still common place, 4 black little girls were killed at a church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama ,It wasn’t until 1967 two years after Lydon Johnson’s affirmative action policy was created that an executive order was expanded to cover discrimination based on gender, the following year in 1968 one of the most influential leaders of the civil rights movement Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated on the balcony outside of his hotel room.
The history that we so often look back on longingly wasn’t as rosy as we’d love it to be.I’d be among the first to tell you we still have a ways to go. This country is still far from perfect now , 29 states still allow for eviction based on sexual preference, women still on average make 30 cents less for every dollar that a man earns and black boys are still being gunned down for the garments they choose to wear in gated communities on the basis of suspicion. These are issues that still need immediate attention and corrective measures but ask someone in one of these “minority” groups how wonderful sixty years ago was and you are sure to get a less than poetic rousing then Mr McAvoy.