As the days pass after yet another mass shooting in the United States, this one taking a school’s football coach, athletic director and 15 students, the conversation on gun control has shown little signs of budging. Some are optimistic by news that students and members of the Parkland, Florida community are planning a march in Washington to demand change from their President and representatives.
They say that this time is different and that effective gun regulations are doubtlessly on their way. However, most people are still living in an unfortunate state of awareness, knowing that if 20 six and seven year-olds weren’t enough to ignite a fire, this likely won’t either.
Not even 60 days into the year, the United States has incurred over 1,800 deaths by gun, according to the non-profit group Gun Violence Archive. CNN released an article that said the U.S. holds nearly half of the world’s gun ownerships and soars past its 2nd place competitor, Yemen, for average guns per person. And of course, we lead the global community in number of mass shootings, with a total of 90 from 1966 to 2012 according to a study conducted by Professor Adam Lankford at the University of Alabama.
Television host John Oliver recently interviewed Philip Van Cleave, a gun lobbyist from the Virginia Citizens Defense League. When he was told that Australia has yet to have a mass shooting since putting serious regulations on gun ownership, Van Cleave rejected any significance, responding that there had only been a few incidents before then so “whoop-dee-doo.”
In reality, there were 13 mass shootings over 18 years in Australia, almost one every year. When enlightened of this fact, the 2nd Amendment advocate wasn’t fazed.
Interviews made public such as this one are part of the reason that the U.S. is losing its namesake as “the best country in the world.” After the mass shooting in Las Vegas, an article was published by British journalist Catherine Bennett titled, “After Vegas, why do we still treat the U.S. as a civilized state?” She belittled our government officials and compared us to both Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.
Not only have we been globally censured for our inability to stop surely preventable deaths, the United States is being outed for other areas in which we fail to meet the standard we have always boasted.
According to the Department of Education, about 32 million Americans cannot read. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reported that we are behind in math and science as well, where our standards fell 27th and 20th out of its other 34 member nations.
The World Health Organization recently released that the U.S. ranked 31st in life expectancy, our average age of 79.3 years falls behind the nation of Costa Rica, and has been slightly dropping.
The U.S. is the third biggest country, which attributes to 4 percent of the world population, but we are the second largest contributors of greenhouse gases into Earth’s atmosphere. Our largest step taken towards climate change mitigation, the Paris Agreement, is hanging in the balance as President Trump has showed intent to withdraw the U.S. as soon as possible. The United States is, simply, not the best country in the world anymore.
But despite these unsettling facts, I am a proud American. I love my country just as much as people like Philip Van Cleave. Contrary to his belief, I hold the constitution sacrosanct to all other things we value as a nation. The constitution is what told the world, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” and then vowed to protect them from the tyranny of a majority.
This document has given us both freedoms and opportunities, civil rights and civil liberties, individuality and solidarity. It has created a society that demands the preservation of its endowed rights and has ceased to fight for a more perfect union.
We have overcome civil war, eradicated diseases and mounted our flag onto the untouched surface of the moon. My point is, that while the U.S. may have seen better days than the ones it sees now, our ship will never sink. We may slow our pace, just as we have times before. But the citizenry created by our constitution has proven valiantly stronger than the many waves that have hit us.
If we are going to regain our title as the best nation in the world, and I am certain that we will, there are definite changes that must be made. For one, we need leadership that is more concerned with actually improving people’s lives than they are with getting re-elected. Our body politic has become so polarized that we need a leader who is willing to leave political safeground and lose in the name of what’s right. Lincoln lost half the country in order to abolish slavery. Where is our “Lincoln” to ban automatic assault weapons or put serious regulations on carbon emissions?
Before anything, the United States needs to stop kidding themselves and recognize that we are not who we once were. We will never rise if we believe we’re at the top. In the words of Aaron Sorkin, “The first step in solving any problem, is recognizing there is one.”