I remember it like it was yesterday: Mrs. Turchi's fourth grade class. We spent the morning learning about how positively revolting other countries were. How most of them didn't even have indoor plumbing. How immigrants risk life and limb escaping from their rodent-infested, sewage-strewn countries to crawl here on hands and knees, expecting to find the streets paved with gold.

At the end of this lesson we were asked to write a story (and then read it to the class) titled "Why I love my country". Like a good little brainwashed clod, I wrote a passionate story, complete with imagery of waving flags and justice for all. I delivered my heart-felt speech with proper desk-pounding sound effects. I believed.

But later that evening I started thinking about it from a different perspective. I wondered, "If the United States is so great, why don't other countries just give themselves to us?" I knew that there was a breakdown in the logic somewhere. Either other countries didn't have it so bad, or my country might not be that great. Or both.

I tried to reconcile what I'd been taught with logic. Perhaps everything was as Mrs. Turchi claimed, but evil dictators hell bent on staying in power refused to hand over their country so that they could stay in charge. A plausable theory. But why would they want to stay in power in a cesspool when we could magically give them flush toilets and Big Macs? Not to mention, all countries weren't run by evil dictators, some of them were democracies just like us. The people could vote to give themselves up.

Nope, the logic didn't hold up, I was being lied to one way or the other. I started questioning everything I was being told, not just the outrageous things. I felt shades of George Orwell's 1984, but it was only 1980 and I had never even heard of 1984. I was all of 8 or 9 years old, and it was the day I became an cynical anarchist.

The answer is simple. It's because the United States don't want the other countries to give themselves to them.

These things are usually complicated, with no easy answers to the problems. For instance, You can look at your immediate neighbours, say Mexico. Everyone knows that mexicans are and have been invading the US for quite some time, risking their lives crossing the Rio Grande in search of a better way. It is clear that the US is not happy with the idea of masses of illiterate, unqualified people crossing over the border and driving down the quality of life inside the US.

In my opinion, the US should strive to make Mexico richer and to improve the quality of life of their citizens, that way they will have less of a reason to cross the border. However the idea of handing out money to a neighbouring country doesn't get you many votes.

Obvious Answers:

  • Misplaced pride in their country.
  • Unaware that things are better elsewhere.
Less-Than Obvious Answers:
  • They tried but were rejected because their application wasn't in English or was full of misspellings such as "colour" and "honour".
  • The USA is a a Christian country and they're not.
  • They tried "giving the country" to us but the landmass was too great and they couldn't afford the postage.
  • The rulers of those countries don't want to give up their status.
  • They did, but the Columbine shooting happened the same time so it just didn't make it into the news.
The Truth:
  • The US isn't so great.

Some possible answers:

  • Other countries wouldn't want to be saddled with America's public debt. Those West Germans wouldn't have been dancing on the Berlin Wall if they knew they would be picking up the tab over the next decade.
  • Globalisation allows people to share in America's prosperity without requiring to live there. Previously the world's value-adding industries (and therefore the most lucrative jobs) were centred in the West. Now people in other countries have a chance to compete with Detroit car mechanics and San Jose computer programmers.
  • Many people look at their own cultural heritage and take the most amount of pride in that which is clever, spectacular or just sentimental, especially if it aligns with their values. Naturally Americans kids are likely to find films, music, Levi jeans and youth-centred stuff validates their patriotism. However anybody can still enjoy those trappings outside America, and with the right CODEC (and a legal system not too fussed about protecting the intellectual property of foreigners) it costs a whole lot less.
  • Communalistic instincts are stronger outside the United States. Europeans accept high taxes as the price for the welfare state. Asians shun individualism, especially if it harms group interests. Some people in the developing world might regard America's high divorce rates as apocalyptical in the same way as Americans might think the world has ended if their local electricity service was cut for more than a week.

  • People don't like other people anyway. The European Union is perhaps the most influential and powerful grouping of soverign countries ever assembled without coercion from pilum or Panzer. However most people in the union grumble about Brussels anyway. Outsiders are no longer as enthusastic to join - the smart and mobile ones who are most receptive to cosmopolitan values have already caught the first RyanAir flight heading west. All the talk of Asian values comes to naught when ASEAN countries cannot even agree on trade and investment liberalisation on the least socially intrusive industries.
  • People trust their own tyrants than foreign democratic ideals. At least with fascism you know where you stand in the food chain, whereas it is dangerous and confusing to know when to invoke your rights when your local democratically elected warlord is in cohoots with the ex-Ba'athist party mafia don.
  • As an aside, I wonder how you will mix a federalist system in a superstate? Will the Senate have representatives from all the other countries like the United Nations General Assembly? It will be funny if Colombia gets voting rights in the US Congress but the District of Columbia doesn't.
  • Finally - the political institutions, conventions and ideals that makes America rock, like separation of powers and pluralism, are well known and respected by others. It serves as a template for a society that continually evolves towards a utopian idea. Ho Chi Minh based Vietnam's 1945 Constitution on America's, but one wouldn't say North Vietnam wanted US statehood. Okay - Jefferson copied the French, but the US are more pro-active in exporting their political models.

So why join America for its freedom, liberty and baseball when you can create an America at home?

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