It’s just that, in the past, no matter what was wrong with this country — and where do we start with that one? — there have always been mitigating factors, such as the fact that no one could make classic movies, music, and TV shows as well as the creative minds of this once-great land. (You think another member of the United Nations could have made Caddyshack? Go ahead and try, Luxembourg.)
This is about pride of place and rational patriotism, about focus and determination, and about not having the USA plummet into a dystopic nightmare straight out of Idiocracy.
It’s not just the awful fucking war we’ve started and are stuck with. It’s not our hubristic, fascistic government of cretins and creeps. It isn’t our broken health-care system — which Michael Moore’s latest flick, Sicko, compares unfavorably with that of Cuba’s — or the fact that the Canadian “looney” is about as strong as the dollar these days, or that China and India are a tag team poised and ready to spank our beleaguered economic butt. Or even that more Americans believe in creationism than in evolution. (Including, if you believe one poll, 70 percent of Republicans!) Although all of that is true.
The problem, as LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy is wont to say, is that we’re losing our edge. America’s once unshakable global hegemony is slipping, even when it comes to the shit we’re supposed to be good at. We suck at sports. There’s precious little originality in our art, and, when there is, it’s rarely as good as that produced by artists in other countries. Whereas once we were properly accused of cultural imperialism, today’s USA resembles a junkie searching for a fix from some country — any country — that can come up with a reasonably good facsimile of American culture. Give us your British rappers, your Japanese baseball players, your Australian actors.
If the 20th century was “The American Century,” the 21st is shaping up to be anything but. It’s hard not to notice that our plummeting place in world affairs coincides roughly with late 2000, early 2001. Is it unfair and perhaps disingenuous to lay America’s utter ineptitude at the feet of George W. Bush? Maybe. But he’s screwed up pretty much everything else he’s touched so far. And with his approval ratings as dismal as they are — 27 percent, with a bullet! — we might as well. Another Mission Accomplished.
As we gather ’round red-hot grills and steaming lobster pots to celebrate 231 years of independence from perfidious Albion this week, it might also behoove us to look in the mirror — and perhaps to treat July 4th like January 1st and make some resolutions. Because it’s time to recognize something: America sucks. We suck at everything. And we have for a while now.