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It's a Wonderful Country By: Roger Clegg
National Review | Thursday, December 26, 2002

Well, Clarence, we've got another assignment for you, the most difficult since you earned your wings.

What's that, Joseph?

Very similar to your last one. Only this time it's a whole country involved, rather than just one man. It's the United States.

But it's such a good country!

Oh, I agree. But a lot of bad things are said about it nowadays and about its role in history — that it took land from the Indians, and allowed the enslavement of blacks, and mistreated many others, and that it ought to make up for all those wrongs and remedy everything it did bad in the past, and just generally be ashamed of itself. Many people are saying that the United States should stop trying to export its values and its way of life, and should go stand in the corner for a good long while. There are even a lot of Americans who feel that way.

But we don't expect a person to be perfect, let alone a country, and it's really not fair to ignore all the good that a people has done and focus only on the bad.

Exactly, Clarence, and that's where you come in. That was really very effective, what you did for George Bailey. So we'd like you to do the same thing for the United States. Show what the world would be like if there hadn't been a United States.

Gee, that's a tall order — and remember that I have the IQ of a rabbit. Could you give me some examples?

Sure. Let's start at the beginning, with the Indians. It's always struck me as odd that the redistributionists, of all people, purport to have no problem with leaving half the world in the hands of a relatively few Indians. Show what the world would look like if the settlers had not come to the Americas, but had stayed in Europe. It would be mighty crowded in Europe, and it's not clear how well the Indians would have gotten along without Western technology and medicine. More to the point, though, is all the good things — for the Indians and everyone else — that would never have happened without a United States. I'll get to that in a second.

The United States is still getting a lot of criticism for the fact that it allowed slavery for its first 75 years or so — in fact, that criticism has stepped up recently. But you might ask whether there would be less slavery now, and would it have ended sooner, if the West — including the United States, at the price of a bloody civil war — had not existed, and had not acted to ban it. Show a world with a thriving Middle Eastern and African slave trade.

Many people have pointed out that African Americans would be much worse off now if they were just Africans. Show the reparations people what their lives would be like in Africa now, assuming they would even have lives there. And how would Africa be getting along these days without Western medicine, including the advances that have taken place as a result of American researchers and doctors? Show an Africa with all the old diseases still there, and no hope of containing the new ones, like AIDS.

But let's not pick on Africa and the Indians. After all, the people who owe the most to America are the Europeans. You could show the United States — and our European friends — what their little peninsula would look like if the Nazis had won World War II. And you can show what Europe would look like if the Soviet Union had won the Cold War.

While you're at it, show our neighbors in the Middle East how Islam would be faring under the Nazis and Communists. It's true that the Islamists wouldn't have to worry about Jews — between the Nazis and Communists, there would be no Jews left in a world without the United States, and not many Christians either — but Hitler or Stalin would not have let a few religious fanatics stand in the way of all that oil. The world would be a harsher place for believers of all kinds, had the United States not been around to pioneer the separation of church and state and the free exercise of religion.

And don't forget the rest of Asia. Would those who denigrate America prefer an Asia and an Oceania that today would be part of a fascist Japanese empire? As for America's opposition to the Communists there, it won't require much speculation on your part: Just show them what really happened in Cambodia under Pol Pot, and then multiply that a few times.

Oh, Joseph, this is so depressing.

To be sure, Clarence. So let's not focus just on the bad things that didn't happen because of the United States. Spend some time showing the good things that did happen because of the United States. Show them all the American inventions — the airplane, the telephone, the steamship, you name it. Show them all the people who have been fed by American food and who have been able to feed themselves using American agricultural technology. Show them the wonder drugs and advances in medical technology that America is responsible for, and the computers and the Internet and the cars, as well as showing them a moon never visited by humans. Show them the literature, the movies, the art, the television, and architecture, that America has given the world — and the music: Do show them a world without jazz, or rhythm and blues, or rock and roll.

Finally, show them a world without the Declaration of Independence, or Abraham Lincoln, or Martin Luther King. Show them a world without a nation that has always had at its core, not one race or one religion or one particular ethnicity, but an idea that is open to everyone. Show them a world that never had a powerful country embodying those ideals for the rest of the world to look toward and be influenced by.

Americans are the luckiest people in the word, Joseph, but the world is very lucky to have Americans.

That's right, Clarence, that's right.

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