In the Third World, people are struggling for their basic existence. On the contrary, they labor incessantly and endure hardships that are almost unimaginable to people in America.In the villages of Asia and Africa, for example, a common sight is a farmer beating a pickaxe into the ground, women wobbling under heavy loads, children carrying stones.
Americans cannot effectively fight for their country without believing that their country is good and that they are fighting in a just cause.
With Edmund Burke, Americans tend to believe that "to make us love our country, our country ought to be lovely." Is America worthy of a reflective patriotism that doesn't mindlessly assert, "My country, right or wrong," but rather examines the criticisms of America and finds them wanting?
Here is a country where everything works: The roads are clean and paper-smooth; the highway signs are clear and accurate; the public toilets function properly; when you pick up the telephone, you get a dial tone; you can even buy things from the store and then take them back.
For the Third World visitor, the American supermarket is a thing to behold: endless aisles of every imaginable product, 50 different types of cereal, and multiple flavors of ice cream.
Having grown up in a different society-in my case, Mumbai, India-I am able to identify aspects of America that are invisible to people who have always lived here.
As a "person of color," I am competent to address such questions as what it is like to be a nonwhite person in America, what this country owes its minority citizens, and whether immigrants can expect to be granted full membership in this society.In America, the immigrant immediately recognizes that things are different.The newcomer who sees America for the first time typically experiences emotions that alternate between wonder and delight.Even middle-class people in the underdeveloped world endure hardships that make everyday life a strain.One problem is that the basic infrastructure of the Third World is abysmal: The roads are not properly paved, the water is not safe to drink, pollution in the cities has reached hazardous levels, public transportation is overcrowded and unreliable, and there is a two-year waiting period to get a telephone.As an immigrant who has chosen to become an American citizen, I believe that it is.Having studied the criticisms of America with care, my conclusion is that the critics have a narrow and distorted understanding of America.Their clothes are tattered, their teeth are rotten, and disease and death constantly loom over the horizon.For most poor people on the planet, life is characterized by squalor, indignity, and brevity.Critics of America complain about the scandal of persistent poverty in a nation of plenty, but the immigrant cannot help noticing that the United States is a country where the poor live comparatively well.This fact was dramatized in the 1980s when CBS television broadcast "People Like Us," which was intended to show the miseries of the poor during an American recession.