As much as nationalism can be destructive, sometimes it’s just outright funny. This is one of those times. Of course, from the average American citizen, a comment such as the one mentioned in the title is to be expected, but what makes this one particularly funny is that it is a direct quote from an academic text. Yes, one of those texts in which a supposedly intelligent person tries to convey objective information. Perhaps my bias here is already obvious enough, but let’s just see what we can say about this one…
The full quote from a journal article I read for one of my courses is the following, speaking about the decreasing political involvement in the US: “the world’s longest and most successful experiment in democracy is at risk of losing the norms, networks and institutions of civic life that have made us the most emulated and respected nation in history.” (original source here). The most emulated and respected nation in history… that is quite a claim…
A quick Google search soon shows where this idea came from: in 2009, there was a study which claimed that the US was indeed the most respected nation on earth, based on a survey held in 20 countries. Several US news websites reported on this, with the original story coming from Reuters.
What is interesting is that Reuters never links to a source and also doesn’t tell us which countries were surveyed. It is called a “global” survey, yet all that is said is that 20 “rich and developing countries” participated. The thing is, though… nobody cares about the specifics. Most Americans like seeing these facts, so they certainly won’t question the research. In fact, any country would have liked hearing this, and if it had been said about my own country, I would probably have accepted it as well. But the truth is that the claims made are groundless, and that although the public cannot be blamed for it, it is awfully sad that an actual academic source would make such a statement.
The United states receives a lot of respect from some people in Europe and perhaps even from Africa and certain countries in Southern America, but it does not receive any respect from the East. It’s easy enough to claim that both “rich and developing” countries were surveyed, but if you pick the right ones, you’ll still have an incredibly biased sample. If instead the same question was asked in Northern Africa, the Middle East or pretty much all of Asia, which together make up over half of the world population, the outcome would be very different.
Ultimately, the US is the most famous country, but it is flawed in so many ways that it definitely isn’t the most respected. The US is the Justin Bieber of the world: famous and loved by some, but hated and disrespected by many. This is shown by a different survey, which presents, although still inevitably biased, a very different view: the US ends 22nd, while Canada, Sweden and Switzerland make up the top three, with Australia coming in fourth. Those are all countries with much less nationalism and with a much more progressive and peace abiding system. They are countries that are not hated in most of the world, and that is what makes them respected.
Sweden and Switzerland might be too small to deserve such a high ranking in a truly representative study, but if there is one country that could be called the most respected nation in the world, ironically enough, it is Justin Bieber’s homeland: Canada. It is the country that is made fun of in the US, that is ridiculed for so many things, but the truth is that it is a country that provides an example of how things should be. If the US ever does want to be respected globally, they will have to learn from their neighbour, because they still have a very, very long way to go.
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