The United States is still considered by many to be the most advanced country in the world, especially to those in developing countries. It is hard for some to imagine a world that doesn’t revolve around the United States, but it would be wise to try. As a third-culture kid — someone who has spent most of their childhood outside of their parents’ culture — who hails from a developing secular democratic country and having been raised in a developed Islamic federation, I believe this country still has a long way to go to achieve the paradisiacal status it claims to have internationally.
That said, New York City always puts me in a state of amazement. And while others share that wonder, I notice that the people who live in this city treat me differently than they do others. They express surprise at my impeccable English, and I have to wonder what my skin-tone or background has to do with my ability to speak a language that is spoken by around 1.5 billion people worldwide. Perhaps it’s the fact that I speak “American,” as Sarah Palin puts it, even though I’m not from this country. Furthermore, for an agnostic who is used to hearing the Mullah’s call to prayer, not eating around friends who are fasting during Ramadan and the glory that are Eid feasts, it is undoubtedly jarring to be faced with news of the arrest of 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed.
But even before Ahmed’s arrest, I knew about the faults of the United States. I could point to the fact that non-white Americans are disproportionately the victims of police violence, and that Planned Parenthood, an organization that spends 97 percent of its revenue on health-care services besides abortion, is constantly vilified by Fox News, a channel that boasts the slogan “Fair and Balanced.” I could also point to a statistic from the year 2013, when toddlers accidentally discharging guns killed more Americans than the terrorists behind the Boston Marathon Bombing. The most damning evidence, I would say, would be my knowledge of these facts despite being an international student, and the general ignorance that prevails around anyone not from the immediate West.
I wouldn’t be here paying the exorbitant tuition if the United States was horrific. There is beauty, liberty and
opportunity here that we would be hard pressed to achieve anywhere else. In comparison to several developing countries, all the aforementioned issues would be irrelevant and unworthy of comment due to their insignificance. This is a nation that has already begun to challenge preconceived notions I held and introduced me to the freedom of being myself. I do, however, refuse to buy into the idea that this is the best this country can do. The condition that this country is in is not the peak of its ability. We can do better.
Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, September 28 print edition. Email Pragya Gianani at [email protected]