You know, it kills me that I have to write an essay like this, but there are apparently lots of Americans on this site that still don't get it.

The United States of America is the greatest country on Earth. Period. This truth is self-evident. No matter its faults, no matter its flaws, no matter the blotches in its history, the United States has done more to improve the lives of people worldwide than any other country. Now, I know you're not going to take my word for it, but you don't have to. How about this: Let's see what someone who came to the United States from another country has to say.

I'd like to introduce you to a man named Dinesh D'Souza. He's a political commentator and author who contributes to news magazines such as "National Review". Recently he published an article on National Review Online, "10 Great Things", that addressed the current level of criticism being heaped on the United States both from home and abroad. Naturally he had an opinion of his own and decided to wade into the debate. What are his bona fides? He states them thus:



"As an immigrant who has chosen to become an American citizen, I feel especially qualified to say what is special about America. Having grown up in a different society--in my case, Bombay, India--I am not only able to identify aspects of America that are invisible to the natives, but I am acutely conscious of the daily blessings that I enjoy in America."



Wait. You mean that there was actually somebody out there from the Old World that came to America and liked it so much that he was willing to stay?? Like forever?? And he thinks that being in the "Eee-vil, unfair, unjust, uncouth" United States provides "blessings" for him to enjoy? This is a miracle, readers! From looking at the essays and reviews on this page, I thought that everybody that didn't live in the US broke down into two categories: Those that love their countries so much they don't want to leave them (and if that's you, Good for You! It's good to be proud of your country) and those that hate the US so much not only would they never move to it, but they hate THEIR OWN COUNTRIES as well for siding with the US (You dis my country and your own. Way to be positive! You must kill at pep rallies.). Now I see there's a third group: People from other countries that like the US better, so much so that they come here to make a new life! What a phenomenon! Why, I bet nothing like that has happened here since...since...oh, yeah...Since the last time there was a long line at the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

So let's delve into this situation and see what's behind it. D'Souza starts off the article by recapping some of the criticisms leveled against the US by Islamicists (America is the "Great Satan"), Europeans (they have problems with our capitalism and culture) and South Americans (to them, we're neo-colonialist). He also states that this foreign anti-Americanism wouldn't be so bad if it didn't have the support of some Americans themselves, who "blame America for most of the evils in the world." The domestic criticism comes from both the Left and the Right, and ranges from the notion that the US is responsible for "continuing inequality and racism" to the idea that American Culture is "slouching towards Gomorrah".

D'Souza doesn't deny that America has its share of faults:



"And who can dispute some of their particulars? This country did have a history of slavery and racism continues to exist. There is much in our culture that is vulgar and decadent."



But:



"...the critics are wrong about America, because they are missing the big picture. In their indignation over the sins of America, they ignore what is unique and good about American civilization."



"Unique and good"? American civilization is "unique and good"? You mean there's no other country like it, and it's, like, something beneficial? Hey, y'know, I could swear somebody on this site has mentioned things like that a time or two, in like reviews and essays and stuff. Gee, wonder who? It's right on the tip of my tongue...

Ah, well. We'll figure it out later. Let's get back to the article. Okay, so far D'Souza has pointed out that he feels America has it's good points and its bad points, just like any other country, right? But the purpose of the article is to explain why the US is "special" (i.e., set apart from other countries). He does that by enumerating what he calls the "ten great things about America":



"America provides an amazingly good life for the ordinary guy."



Now, I'm sure every communist and socialist out there reading this just popped a gasket. "How can he say that?! Doesn't he know anything about the poverty in America?!" Let him explain himself:



"Rich people live well everywhere, but what distinguishes America is that it provides an impressively high standard of living for the 'common man.' We now live in a country where construction workers regularly pay $4 for a nonfat latte, where maids drive nice cars, and where plumbers take their families on vacation to Europe."



"But the poor, blast you! THE POOR!!" He's getting to it:



"Indeed, newcomers to the United States are struck by the amenities enjoyed by 'poor' people in the United States."



"Amenities?!!" Yes, amenities. What amenities? People watching CBS's 1980s documentary "People Like Us" found out, people in the US and in the Soviet Union:



"Ordinary people across the Soviet Union saw that the poorest Americans have TV sets, microwave ovens, and cars."



Now, how can you honestly say that this isn't the greatest country in the world when people on the lowest rungs of our economic ladder have better standards of living than the "middle class" in some countries? Some people who aren't Americans immediately warm up to the concept, like D'Souza's friend from Bombay who was desperately trying to get into the US because he wanted "to live in a country where the poor people are fat."

D'Souza's next great thing is this:



"America offers more opportunity and social mobility than any other country, including the countries of Europe."



This is a great point, and he demonstrates it by pointing out that "America is the only country that has created a population of 'self-made tycoons'." One example is Pierre Omidyar, "whose parents are Iranian and who grew up in Paris", who came to America and founded eBay. No, not everybody is a tycoon, but "no country has created a better ladder than America for people to ascend from modest circumstances to success."

And that's the reason why the US government and US economy work the way they do! They are designed to provide a playing field where people can make themselves rich, because no government in history has ever legislated its people into prosperity!



"Work and trade are respectable in America, which is not true elsewhere."



I admit, this one surprised me. When he explained that historically most cultures considered "merchants"--the traders--"vile and corrupt", part of it made sense. Businessmen are reviled today in some countries. But what about workers, laborers? Apparently, those same cultures considered them "degraded and vulgar". Surely that's different now, right? Europeans are always claiming they care more about workers. Well, apparently not. It was America's Founding Fathers that turned business and "contract labor" into "noble" callings, and thus the world evolved into a state where "The ordinary life of production and supporting a family is more highly valued in the United States than in any other country." Interesting.



"America has achieved greater social equality than any other society."



Watch your heads! The Commies and the Lefties just popped another gasket! Don't worry, guys. He gives Social Europe props by saying "In purely economic terms, Europe is more egalitarian." (Um, before you guys dislocate your shoulders patting yourselves on the back, remember this: It doesn't take much effort to spread mediocrity equally.) This may be true, but by contrast "...Americans are socially more equal than any other people, and this is unaffected by economic disparities." To Americans "the rich guy may have more money, but he isn't in any fundamental sense better than anyone else." For some of you, that concept is a plank in your party platform. For Americans, it's a cultural norm. That gives us the gold star.



"People live longer, fuller lives in America."



Hey, y'know all that innovation-driven capitalism you guys hate so much? It actually lengthens your life. "In 1900, the life expectancy in America was around 50 years; today it is more than 75 years. Advances in medicine and agriculture are mainly responsible for the change. This extension of the life-span means more years to enjoy life, more free time to devote to a good cause, and more occasions to do things with the grandchildren." 'Nuff said.



"In America the destiny of the young is not given to them but created by them."



I could go into what D'Souza says about how different his life would be if he stayed in Bombay, India--and the difference is quite profound--but really, everything you need to know about this "great thing" is stated in this paragraph:



"In most countries in the world, your fate and your identity are handed to you; in America, you determine them for yourself. America is a country where you get to write the script of your own life. Your life is like a blank sheet of paper, and you are the artist. This notion of being the architect of your own destiny is the incredibly powerful idea that is behind the worldwide appeal of America. Young people especially find irresistible the prospect of authoring the narrative of their own lives."



Knowing that, it's sad to think that so many young people born here use this aspect of American Greatness to turn themselves into America's enemies, thus proving that they miss the point entirely.



"America has gone further than any other society in establishing equality of rights."



Go back and read that statement again. Read it over and over. Get it through your head, and when you have, read the next statement:

"There is NOTHING (my emphasis) distinctively American about slavery or bigotry. Slavery has existed in virtually every culture, and xenophobia, prejudice and discrimination are worldwide phenomena."



Have you got that? That means that American Society as it is structured is NOT inherently racist just because some Americans have owned slaves and some Americans are bigots. Racism is an aberration, not the norm, and that's why so many people throughout American History (MAINLY white males) have worked so hard to end it. All the evidence you need to see this is right there. D'Souza points it out:



"...no country expended more treasure and blood to get rid of slavery than the United States. (And to head off the reviews I know I'm going to get from the British Left, Yes, "no country" also includes the UK.) While racism remains a problem in America, this country has made strenuous efforts to eradicate discrimination, even to the extent of enacting policies that give legal preference in university admissions, jobs, and government contracts to members of minority groups. Such policies remain controversial, but the point is that it is extremely unlikely that a racist society would have permitted such policies in the first place. And surely African Americans like Jesse Jackson are vastly better off living in America than they would be if they were to live in, say, Ethiopia or Somalia."



Too true, but the "Reverend" Jackson, and way too many of his followers, will never admit it.



"America has found a solution to the problem of religious and ethnic conflict that continues to divide and terrorize much of the world."



Visitors to places like New York, D'Souza says, are amazed by the way people of different religious and ethnic groups manage to live and work together in relative peace when members of those same groups are in a constant state of war with each other elsewhere in the world. How does that work?



"The American answer is twofold. First, separate the spheres of religion and government so that no religion is given official preference but all are free to practice their faith as they wish. Second, do not extend rights to racial or ethnic groups but only to individuals; in this way, all are equal in the eyes of the law, opportunity is open to anyone who can take advantage of it, and everybody who embraces the American way of life can 'become American'."



Let me simplify this for you: America works because of the principles espoused in its founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution, which were unique in the world when they were created and have not been improved upon anywhere else in the world since. This special characteristic allows the United States to be "the only country in the world that extends full membership to outsiders." This is not about legality, this is about culture:



"The typical American could come to India, live for 40 years, and take Indian citizenship. But he could not 'become Indian'. He wouldn't see himself that way, nor would most Indians see him that way. In America, by contrast, hundreds of millions have come from far-flung shores and over time they, or at least their children, have in a profound and full sense 'become American'."



I can't tell you how good it feels to be so right.

Oh, Now don't go hurting yourself pounding on the screen and screaming at me. You'll need to save some of that for the next great thing:



"America has the kindest, gentlest foreign policy of any great power in world history."



See? Toldja so. I'm sure your face is turning all sorts of shades of red right now (not if you're conservative, of course. You already knew this.). D'Souza expected the backlash as well:



"Critics of the U.S. are likely to react to this truth with sputtering outrage. They will point to longstanding American support for a Latin or Middle Eastern despot, or the unjust internment of the Japanese during World War II, or America's reluctance to impose sanctions on South Africa's apartheid regime. However one feels about these particular cases, let us concede to the critics the point that America is not always in the right."



Fine. Point conceded. American History does include a collection of some of the dumbest foreign policy decisions ever. My contention has always been the same as D'Souza's. "What the critics leave out is the other side of the ledger." We've saved the world from Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan and Soviet totalitarianism. We rebuilt Germany and Japan after we crushed them. We're doing the same with Afghanistan and Iraq. Why?



"For the most part America is an ABSTAINING (D'Souza's emphasis) superpower. It shows no real interest in conquering and subjugating the rest of the world. (Remember what you learned from reading Chapter 2 of "The Imperialist". The only person around here advocating that is ME.) On occasion...America intervenes to overthrow a tyrannical regime or to halt massive human rights abuses in another country, but never stays to rule that country."



In other words, the United States is the only nation with imperial power in history that uses that power merely to fix a couple of problems then GOES HOME. Unlike Phoenicia, Egypt, Persia, Greece, Carthage, Rome, China, The Netherlands, Spain, France and Britain, whenever we've flexed our imperial muscle, the main goal was to do good! The best indicator of that is this:



"Even as America bombed the Taliban infrastructure and hideouts, U.S. planes dropped rations of food to avert hardship and starvation of Afghan civilians. What other country does these things?"



Canada? Britain? Australia? Any of my usual detractors care to stand up?

While we're waiting for the responses let's get to D'Souza's last great thing:



"America, the freest nation on Earth, is also the most virtuous nation on Earth."



"This point seems counter-intuitive", D'Souza says, "given the amount of conspicuous vulgarity, vice and immorality in America. Indeed, some Islamic fundamentalists argue that their regimes are morally superior to the United States because they seek to foster virtue among the citizens. Virtue, these fundamentalists argue, is a higher principle than liberty."

While this assertion about virtue is true, and it's also true that people can abuse liberty in a variety of ways, it is equally true that the majority of Americans--and we're talking millions of people here--don't abuse their liberty. They lead moral, upstanding lives, even "amidst the temptations of a rich and free society." That means "[their] virtue has a special luster because it is freely chosen."

This is not the same in countries where there is no freedom to choose, especially in Islamic fundamentalist ones like Iran:



"The reason is that coerced virtues are not virtues at all. Consider the woman who is required to wear a veil. There is no modesty in this, because she is being compelled. Compulsion cannot produce virtue, it can only produce the outward semblance of virtue. Thus a free society like America is not merely more prosperous, more varied, more peaceful, and more tolerant--it is also morally superior to the theocratic and authoritarian regimes that America's enemies advocate."



Well! That pretty much wraps it up, doesn't it?

D'Souza ends the article by stating that "In spite of its flaws...the American life as it is lived today is the best life that our world has to offer. Ultimately America is worthy of our love and sacrifice because, more than any other society, it makes possible the good life, and the life that is good."

Couldn't have said it better myself. (Well...yes I could, but some of you people weren't listening.)

For a more in-depth analysis of the United States and its people check out D'Souza's book "What's So Great About America?", and for more general wisdom look for his columns in "National Review" and "National Review Online."