The Opiate of Exceptionalism

Scott Shane
Oct 19, 2012

“People in this country want the president to be a cheerleader, an optimist, the herald of better times ahead,” says Robert Dallek, the presidential historian. “It’s almost built into our DNA.”
.... this country comes in only 28th in the percentage of 4-year-olds enrolled in preschool, and at the other end of the scale, 14th in the percentage of 25-to-34-year-olds with a higher education. He might hammer on infant mortality, where the United States ranks worse than 48 other countries and territories,

An American politician who speaks too candidly about the country’s faults, she [Deborah Madsen] went on to say, risks being labeled with that most devastating of epithets: un-American.

Of course, the reason talking directly about serious American problems is risky is that most voters don’t like it. Mark Rice, who teaches American studies at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, N.Y., said students often arrived at his classes steeped in the notion that the United States excelled at everything. He started a blog, Ranking America, to challenge their assumptions with a wild assortment of country comparisons, some sober (the United States is No. 1 in small arms ownership) and others less so (the United States is tied for 24th with Nigeria in frequency of sex).
“Sure, we’re No. 1 in gross domestic product and military expenditures,” Mr. Rice says. “But on a lot of measures of quality of life, the U.S. ranking is far lower. I try to be as accurate as I can and I avoid editorializing. I try to complicate their thinking.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/21/sunday-review/candidates-and-the-truth-about-america.html?src=me&ref=general