The United States likes to frame itself as an "exceptional" country, calling itself a guiding light and model to the entire world, particularly in regard to liberty and democracy. In doing so, the U.S. professes that it has a right to remake the entire world in its own image and aggressively evangelize its ideology overseas, which have become the underpinning messages of a hegemonic state that strives for unchallengeable global dominance.
But is the United States truly as great as it makes out? When you look at the facts, it is not. The country may be praised on its own merits, but that does not mean its less favorable political realities should be exported to the rest of the world unconditionally. As detailed in a recent CNN report, nine countries have issued candid advice to travelers to the U.S. due to increasing violence in the country. These countries are close allies and neighbors of the U.S.
The U.K. foreign office advice notes: "Incidents of mass shooting can occur, but account for a very small percentage of homicide deaths." Germany has a similar message, stating: "It is easy to obtain guns in the United States, leading to increased use of guns and occasional killing sprees. The number of arms and ammunition purchases has increased significantly during the COVID-19 crisis." Comparatively, Japan advises its own citizens that: "It is important to recognize that the security situation is very different between the United States and Japan, and to understand what kind of crime victims are at high risk in what areas," adding that "one of the main security concerns in the United States is gun crime."
This message tends to repeat throughout advice offered by many countries. Obviously, the United States has sporadically grappled with gun crime, and mass shootings have become a common tragedy throughout the country. Despite all these multi-fold problems, the American political system does not seem to have any answer to them.
The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, also known as "the right to bear arms," is seen as an integral aspect of American exceptionalism. The longevity of this amendment and the political zeal attached to it has made progress on gun control almost impossible. In addition to this, other problems in the U.S., such as deep wealth inequality and urban poverty, have exacerbated gun-related crime.
A country that sees its right to bear arms vested in the principle of 19th-century property rights of course has no answer to the social and economic changes of today, making not only mass shootings but also gun crime at large a frequent occurrence. As such, some aspects of life in the country have become dangerous and uncertain.
When viewed like this, America may be exceptional, but for the wrong reasons. The reputation of the United States wanes when the world is frequently subjected to the less than amicable realities of American life. Is its political system truly a model? The answer remains doubtful until those who uphold it can have an honest and reasoned conversation about the country's problems first.
The author is a British political and international relations analyst and a graduate of Durham and Oxford universities.