Poma: No, America Isn’t Pure Evil. But It’s Still Time for an Intervention.


A masked demonstrator, holding an upside down American flag, faces Utah law enforcement officers gathered in front of the Utah State Capitol Building on June 4th, 2020. (Photo by Mark Draper | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Sasha Poma, Assistant Opinion Editor


An op-ed published a few weeks ago from Utah Representative Chris Stewart defended what he called an unpopular opinion: “America is good.” Perhaps it’s not the most controversial topic to exist, especially at this moment in history. But it’s still worth reflecting on as elections approach and COVID-19 continues through the last half of 2020. It’s certainly compelling, but Stewart’s view assumes that it’s just popular to hate America right now. But the USA’s current and past flaws prove that America’s goodness has fallen from grace. As a nation that always prides itself on being the greatest, we need to reevaluate our priorities so we can say such a thing with full confidence once again.

Stewart’s commentary notes valid points in regard to the US’s imperfections — from slavery to abuse in foreign policies. However, he also dismisses the views of alleged “neo-Marxists” in the US today, claiming they twist narratives and hyperfocus on the past. “It would be more helpful to empower individuals by ensuring the Bill of Rights is applied fairly than to focus on past sins,” he wrote. And, he is correct. We shouldn’t just condemn history. Rather, we should learn from it and find the lessons that can help us do the real patriotic thing — help one another improve the nation.

But toxic patriotism also gets us nowhere. Let’s not pretend that the country isn’t currently flawed. Many of the struggles we fight today are reminiscent of struggles dating back to our founding — we still haven’t learned from our mistakes. Other factors of Stewart’s commentary, such as the idea that America has improved wholly and that American capitalism benefits more than harms, while they might be good in theory, fail to properly evaluate any shortcomings. Arguably, that’s the most important part of the path to improvement — noting mistakes and shortcomings to ensure they aren’t repeated down the line.

While we might not be in the same trenches of racism and disregard for the middle class as we have been historically, we shouldn’t pat ourselves on the back quite yet — which is the issue with Stewart’s viewpoint. We can’t settle for “good enough.” For one thing, American capitalism still fails in some ways and people still fight against racial inequality and injustice in this country. The US always prides itself on striving for being the best. Why settle for mediocrity when it comes to“liberty and justice for all”? Well, we shouldn’t.

Not everyone who disagrees with Stewart or questions American greatness are anti-USA radicals or ungrateful new-age hippies. Far from it, actually. University students carry much more student loan debt because America places ridiculous prices on higher education. We can also look at ongoing crises related to oil and keeping our military in the Middle East, of which we have no rightful purpose — especially since we have enough oil right here in the US.

Not to mention, the USA ranks woefully low internationally in terms of just about anything from healthcare to happiness. In 2016, we ranked 27th globally in terms of education and health together — whereas in the 1990s, we ranked 6th. But in terms of military spending, we certainly outrank most of the globe. It seems that our “best of the best” title doesn’t hold up when we look at what really matters. Needless to say, our priorities grow skewed with new leadership, questionable policies and dismal statistics.

No, the USA is not perfect, and yes, we are taking steps to improve. The resurgence of Black Lives Matter, the fact that we have a nice thing called voting, and the general diversity found in the US attests to that statement. All those good things directly align with the original ideas found in the US Constitution and Bill of Rights — the very things Stewart calls back to in his article. “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” should always be in our hearts and actively being worked toward. Just because we have claimed those values historically doesn’t mean we aren’t doing any harm.

As Stewart stated, “I am not blind to the fact that a review of American history provides examples of moral failings. We have not always been led by perfect people.” Most of us, patriotic or not, could agree on that front. However, we need to make sure history does not continue to repeat itself — which it is, in facets from our leadership to the pandemic. And given Stewart’s partiality to President Donald Trump, he might not be evaluating our leadership as properly as he should.

Stewart, on the whole, examines a unique viewpoint, and it’s brought more important questions to the forefront, especially at this delicate time. So the question at this point should be, what can we do to ensure America improves? Be aware of the issues. Read the news. And most importantly, don’t be afraid to thoughtfully critique anything, especially your country. It’s how we learn to improve and, with luck, change the world around us. It’s the patriotic thing to do.


[email protected]