America’s Exceptionally Sorry State

Opinion by McKenzie Andrews
Oct. 18, 2013, 2:51 a.m.

My common app essay started with the line “American by birth; Southern by the grace of God.” I keep a large American flag in my dorm, and I regularly wear a bro tank that sports Old Glory and reads “Back to Back World War Champs.” The Star Spangled Banner is my favorite anthem: I’m proud to be an American.

At the beginning of this month, I was ready to get a job.  Not really, but as a Stanford sophomore, I was ready to get some free start-up t-shirts and shot glasses: aka, the Career Fair. I had some inkling I should print some resumes after morning classes, but instead I ate lunch and then biked over to White Plaza.

When I got there, the first thing I did was go to the map of attendees and find the U.S. State Department: table 105. They (and all y’all taxpayers) paid for my gap year of Chinese study in Taiwan that fueled an interest in diplomacy in East Asia. When I got to table 105, however, I was let down. On Oct. 1, 2013, the yellow slip of paper read, “The Department of State is not attending the fair today.” The U.S. Marines made it, but our civil servants did not.

I love America, but I’m disappointed. A friend of mine captured my sentiments well. “Our generation, the millennials, continues to suffer from short-term and ultimately self-destructive governance of many of the Baby Boomers. Our country, in every facet from global credibility, economic stability, education, infrastructure, healthcare, etc., is at risk for our future.”

In my opinion, the United States is the best and most influential country in the world, but we’re suffering from a dearth in leadership. The political motivations that have gotten us to this point reflect hubris that sacrifices cooperation. We —through our elected politicians — have brought the international ridicule over the state of the United States on ourselves.

To make things worse, the domestic chicken dance in Washington over the debt ceiling (which, until an 11th hour conclusion, had the potential to cause unprecedented chaos in global financial markets), almost made the recent government shutdown seem practically quaint.

Asian nations such as China and Japan, who hold large chunks of our debt through U.S. treasuries, are appealing to our government to resolve the stalemate.

Chinese state-sponsored news agency Xinhua stated, “As U.S. politicians of both political parties are still shuffling back and forth between the White House and the Capitol Hill without striking a viable deal to bring normality to the body politic they brag about, it is perhaps a good time for the befuddled world to start considering building a de-Americanized world.”

China is concerned that American gridlock will hurt other economies as our political dysfunction reverberates through the world; they’ve voiced their frustration with the impasse that has frozen our capitol.

This sentiment is echoed globally. Indian business leaders told Voice for America that they did not understand how a developed nation like the United States could shutdown due to a legislative impasse.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said to the BBC, “It is a risk to the world economy if the US can’t properly sort out its spending.” France’s Le Monde christened the shutdown “grotesque” and described how American cemeteries in France will be closed: War memorials abroad operate on our domestic funds.

The American government is unable to fulfill its basic legislative functions, and the international community is rightfully unimpressed.

If the United States wants to remain great, it’s time for our leaders to come together and negotiate a solution. I’m proud of being an American, but the partisanship that has split our nation is shameful.

Our politicians have created a situation that is embarrassing and reflects disconnect with the needs of the constituents who voted them into office.

Governmental incompetence doesn’t mean that I’m about to move to Canada, but it’s making me question my interest in working as a civil servant. If our politicians’ failure shuts down the public sector opportunities, maybe I should consider serving my country by majoring in computer science and working for the start up with free t-shirts. Or the (generally apolitical) military.

America’s sad state inspires doubts and apathy towards what our government actually can get done. Domestically and internationally, people aren’t impressed. It’s time for our leadership to work together — our futures depend on it.

Contact McKenzie Andrews at andrews7 ‘at’


McKenzie Andrews writes as an opinions columnist for The Stanford Daily. Originally from Nashville, McKenzie is a sophomore pursing a B.A. in Economics. She interns at the Graduate School of Business, serves as the Financial Officer for a Christian student group and competes with the traveling Model United Nations team. She covers global and local issues that affect the Stanford student body.

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