Gun control, restrictive abortion laws, national healthcare so on and so forth. The United States of America seems to dominate the way we talk, interact with and view politics. However, one typical attitude I have seen taken by many is this: “It’s in America, why should it impact me?”. This is wrong. That big country many kilometres away has a big impact on you. It has a big impact on me. And we should all, really, care about what happens in this beacon of dysfunctional power. Here is why…
America is big in all aspects of the word. Lots of land, packed with people and a McDonalds kids’ meal the size of our large. The power it holds also seems to fit in this category. In fact, America is quite possibly the most powerful country in the history of human civilisation. The combination of technological advancements and globalisation, the USA boats even more significant influence that the British Empire it broke off from. It is because of this status that it wields an extraordinary amount of control over the Western world. The majority of global popular culture has its origins in the States. From rock ‘n’ roll to rap, it can all be traced back to America, and even if it’s unintentional, so many groups follow the precedents set by the United States. It is truly the proverbial “big boy”, and nothing about that can change.
When the US joined the United Nations, 100s of other countries followed suit. When they dived headfirst into conflict in the Middle East, countries as varying as Australia and Hungary joined in. Most modern computing technologies are based upon breakthroughs in the States. Now I dare say my cumulative listing has made its point. America sets an example; the majority of the world follows.
The problem with this arises from one simple fact: not every example is worth following. For all its might, America is behind large amounts of the developed world. According to World Atlas, America’s literacy rate stands at 86% (125th in the world) and is ranked below stereotypically ‘underdeveloped’ nations such as Libya and Panama. The introduction of the Patriot Act in 2001 gave the US government unrestricted access to its citizen’s private data. Its use of state authorised torture, and highly restrictive detention laws do not set strong examples either. How is the national embarrassment that is Australia’s use of detention centres to hold asylum seekers going to change when American border authorities make children sleep on concrete floors? How is the threat of Chinese interventionism in Asia supposed to be deterred when America still insists on involvement in the Middle East?
These questions are essential, and I will not even come close to offering solutions in this piece, but what I hope I have achieved is making a point. It may seem strange when an Australian like myself weighs in on the gun control debate. An Irish person’s opinion on America’s health care system may seem out of place. Australia already has strict gun laws, Ireland, a universal health care system. It seems irrelevant to contemplate these issues in the USA. But it isn’t, in fact, it’s wise. And this is because of what America is. It is the global beacon of power and influence. This is the Roman Empire but without the direct control. It is the United States of America, the most powerful country on the face of the Earth right now. And it certainly matters.
Written by Alexander Driscoll