Have you seen this popular clip from the American show "The Newsroom" that opens with someone asking why America is the greatest in the world, and a very, very real answer coming back simply saying "that it's not...but it could be."
I grew up in a home that praised America for the opportunity it gave us: my parents got married in India, but moved to the United States soon after their marriage, and then had three kids who have lived (arguably) good lives. But, I was always reminded of how different life was than how my parents' lives had been. In America, they are comfortable. In India, they are happy.
This isn't a question that many Americans in their early twenties want to answer. We, which I'll be using to refer to the collective United States population, see more and more that perceptions we have long held about America--that our technology is better, that we're smarter, that we've braver--are proving to be untrue.
Today, a friend shared an article from 2012 with me, and though three years old, I feel it is very, very true. The article by Mark Mason details 10 things Americans don't know about America, and it boils down to the following:
1. Few people are impressed by us.
2. Few people hate us.
3. We know nothing about the rest of the world.
4. We are poor at expressing gratitude and affection.
5. The quality of life for the average American is not that great.
6. The rest of the world is not a slum when compared to us.
7. We're paranoid.
8. We're status obsessed and seek attention.
9. We are very unhealthy.
10. We mistake comfort for happiness.
To really understand the meanings behind each of these items, you would need to read his full piece (here, if you're curious: http://markmanson.net/america) but the main point isn't to say that every American suffers from these 10 points, but rather, the American condition on the whole largely sums up to be equal to these 10 points.
I didn't think I would agree when I started reading the article, but I found myself nodding my head. Having traveled a bit in my life, mostly to visit family, I have been able to see some of these things proved true. And some still seem false. One thing has stuck out to me above all, though: America is not so much greater than every other place in the world. Sure, it might be the place a specific person is happiest or more comfortable, but that does not mean it is the greatest. That does not mean that there isn't another place out there where you would be just as happy.
It's time we stop mistaking what we know for what is best, and begin to see the world as a place not dominated by the familiar, but full of exceptional possibilities in addition to the familiar.