Professor Richard Barke
19 Apr 2005
Should the United States be considered by other nations as a model to follow in promoting political, social, and moral progress?
As the processes of life continue throughout time, humans have found ways to
improve upon the thoughts and ideas of their forefathers. Taking these concepts as a basis for knowledge, generation after generation of humans are able to develop ideas further, making for what is known as progress. A formal definition for the word progress is the gradual betterment of mankind, making for more effective, favorable, or improved ideas. The effects of progress can be seen in the way humans interact and live life. In countries such as the United States, with so many citizens living in a vast expanse of land, human life must be based on some sort of government for all, especially in order for favorable progress. Naturally, as such a large and powerful country with a rapid rate of progress, the United States serves as an example to many smaller and struggling countries on how to properly govern a body of citizens. The question arises, however, whether the American standards of progress are really an example to be followed. In the United States today, progresses made in the political and procedural realms are models to be followed, but progresses in the moral and social realms are not up to proper standards.
Since its founding in the 18th century, the United States has had only two written constitutions of government, one of which has served a growing nation for over 200 years. When the United States constitution was written, the nation had only thirteen states, but had grand intentions in mind for the progression of the nation. In order to accommodate such a nation, a strong governmental body had to be instated. Founded on the belief that all people are ultimately looking for self-gain, the US wanted a country that would benefit all citizens, but at the same time, did not want too strong of a government, for fear that citizens would feel suffocated. In order for all citizens to have a voice in their country, a strong representative government was put into place which still exists today. The American system of political progress is most evidently seen in the process of amending the Constitution. Since it’s ratification in 1787, it has only been amended twenty-seven times, lasting through times of struggle, strife, and war. It is only logical that in such a long stretch of time when so many innovative changes occur in a rapidly expanding country, the government may have to make slight modifications for
efficient progress to continue. Regardless of how many and what sort of changes were made, the fact still remains that the nation still succeeds under its constitution. One strong reason for constitutional success is due to a balanced system of checks and balances, where three branches of government check up on one another’s power to ensure that all have equal power and jurisdiction. Between the president, Congress, and the Supreme Court, powers and influences are kept at equilibrium for citizens to feel protected but not
overwhelmed by the government’s presence and role.
Not only does the United States function well as a government, but also as a democracy. Because of the size and makeup of the American population, a system of representation is in place that provides for all voices to be heard, but through elected representatives. Elections in the United States are one of the most defining characteristics of American politics. The implementation of the Electoral College system allows for more organized elections, especially when considering the number of votes cast in a
given election. While this system may not be of relevance to smaller, less diverse countries, the United States, as a large and varied body of people, has benefited from its efficiency in electing representatives for the people. In a nation where freedom of speech is guaranteed to its citizens, elections matter greatly, because all citizens have and want a say in how their government regulates their lives. The progress made in the American system of democracy has been quite influential globally; it has made for progress in
other countries, most recently seen in the war-torn country of Iraq, which just held its first democratic elections. Other countries who have followed in the steps of the American way are Germany and the former Soviet Union, both turning from a Communist regime to a more republican form of representative government. Such progresses in global politics shows the precedent the United States has set in the political realm.
As the world moves into a new century of technology, innovation, and research, the United States lacks the social progresses necessary to be able to set a global precedent. Although the country has made significant moves toward social equality, some aspects are still shockingly unsatisfactory. According to one international student being interviewed on the state of America:
“At first, I was ‘sold’ on the American way of life. Then I began to see both sides and arrived at a more balanced judgment. I discovered there are still classes in America: only the very high and the very low benefit from the state, while the middle class is left to carry on as best as it weakly can. But mostly, it would seem, America is a democracy for the rich” (190).
The problem with American society today lies in the inner-city ghettos, where little is done to ensure the social equality of its residents; they are impoverished, predominantly African-American, and live in low-income housing. While the suburban neighborhoods of many of America’s principle cities are wealthy, predominantly Caucasian, and enjoy the luxuries of large residences, the inner-city neighborhoods are run-down, and are inhabited by the urban poor. While those who live on a large plot of land in the outskirts of town feel safe in their houses and neighborhoods, those in the inner city are
constantly aware of the threats of crime, due to overwhelming unemployment and poverty. Not enough is being done in this country to diversify the social patterns of the urban scene. While many significant progresses have been made as seen from the standpoint of equal rights, much is left to do to make a more varied pattern of society, one much different to the stark contrast of the rich suburbs and the poor urban slums seen today. As put by another international student, “…how do Americans really expect, in view of the prevalent racial discriminations against color and religion, to lead the
democratic forces of the world?” (191)
In the same light, American views on morality and decency prove to be no example to follow. One major factor of the decline in American values is the influence the media plays on the average American’s attitudes toward what is considered acceptable in society. Media influences are seen in television, cinema, and most recently over the internet, affecting most highly America’s younger population. According to the online article, “American Morality: Is There a Generation Gap,” “Adults under the age of 30 grew up in the era of the Internet, music videos, and cable television shows that continued to push the moral envelope, and may not remember a time when profanity and sexual content were more taboo” (1). With progress and innovation in the way that humans receive information, the media has come to tell Americans that certain themes and subject matters are now acceptable, whereas years ago would never have been allowed in the average middle-class home. The more Americans
tolerate increasing sexual themes, explicit language and violence, and inappropriate behavior, the more they become desensitized to what they really represent in society.
Surely American attitudes toward what is considered decent and proper in
society today are not what others should view as exemplary. The American
system of democracy has lasted through many changes in the United States, but
many norms of modern society are not as strong. As mankind moves toward more
favorable and improved ideas and innovations, certain aspects of the American
way of life prove to be of example to the rest of the world, while others fall
short of the necessary standards.
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