I was reading an article on msnbc.com entitled “The 8 lowest-paying jobs in America”, and it begins with the following sentence: “The United States may soon have to replace the expression, ‘the land of opportunity,’ with ‘the land of low wages.'”
The idea is that many workers in this country make very low wages, and the percentage is likely to increase as the post-recession job market introduces more lower-paying jobs than anything else.
But it got me thinking about some of the slogans we use in the United States, and how they tend to portray us in more favorable light than we might deserve. If this country were a product, a case could be made against us for false advertising. So I decided to come up with versions of the slogans that communicate a bit more… humility.
1. The Land of Opportunity – “The Land of Low Wages” doesn’t seem to tell the whole story. For this one, I’d go with “The Land of Corporate Opportunity”. Despite all of the regulations that we have in place, corporate entities are still able to take advantage of workers, customers, and citizens in a variety of ways. The US poverty rate in 2008 was 13.2%. A lot of hard workers lie below that poverty line, many of them without health insurance or other benefits. And the rest of us continue to be taken advantage of by banks and credit card companies. True, an opportunity means nothing if one declines to make the most of it. But it would be nice if corporations didn’t get so many opportunities to break our stride.
2. The Land of the Free – This one is really hard to reconcile with the fact that the United States imprisons more people (and a higher percentage of its population) than any other country on Earth. Many incarcerations are the result of victimless crimes, unreasonable statutes, and various types of profiling. Throw that together with an economy that was originally built on human slavery, and I think I would give the United States a very different slogan: “The Land of the Locked”.
3. The Melting Pot – This conjures the idea of a smooth blend of cultures that combine together to create something new and wonderful. But I think the reality is a bit less idealistic. So I’m going to go with “The Stew Pot”: a country where the flavors of the different ingredients touch one another, but they remain (for the most part) distinctly separate ingredients. Don’t misunderstand me; there’s nothing wrong with a nice stew. The problem arises when some ingredients are deemed less important than others, when certain flavors attempt to overpower the rest.
In case any of you are getting the wrong idea: I love this country. But, because I love it, I want it to be the best that it can be. We don’t make things better by pretending that they’re already perfect. With that spirit in mind, I don’t hesitate to point out what I perceive as flaws. If we keep hiding behind idealistic slogans, we’ll never reach our peak.
Do you have any slogans that you would apply to the United States? Please share!