When I was a young schoolboy, I believed that America was the greatest nation on Earth. There were many things that reinforced this idea as I was growing up and as I took stock in my own limited way of various attributes of our country’s recent history.

When America and its allies defeated the Nazis and the fascist dictatorships in Europe while at the same time conquering the militant aggressor nation of Japan in the Pacific, America stood out to the entire world as a great nation wielding immense military power.  After the end of WWII, America established the greatest economy in the world and achieved the highest standard of living the world had ever known.

When America used its medical resources to conquer polio, measles, mumps and many other diseases that had plagued people throughout history, the world saw our country bringing great humanitarian benefits, helping humankind enjoy improved health.

America’s scientific and technological acumen achieved great things – inventing the telephone, television, transistors, the microchip, the personal computer, and the capstone Apollo project of safely putting men on the moon – these were the accomplishments of a great nation. The whole world was watching in amazement and wonder when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon –  and I felt a tremendous sense of pride in being an American.

It seemed to me, in those days long ago, that America had the best athletes, we had the greatest scientists and Nobel Prize winners, we built the biggest telescopes, we had the most famous entertainers, the richest people, and everyone wanted to come and live in America, some even risking their lives to get here.

That glorious image of America’s greatness has become tarnished. Today, America is becoming famous for its ongoing plague of mass-murders – horrific shootings taking place almost daily at public venues such as schools, churches, restaurants, offices, and markets. America is becoming known as a dangerous place where no one can be safe. America is now seen as loving guns more than its children and the general public. America is now seen as pathetically inept and incapable of solving this problem.

We can put people on the moon and send rockets to Mars and beyond, but we cannot stop killing ourselves with high-powered weapons that are proliferating by the millions in this country. It is estimated that there are about 15 million assault weapon owners in America – and very likely most of them are not part of a “regulated militia” as required in the 2nd Amendment of our Constitution.

The next generation of Americans will have a tremendous challenge ahead of them – can they show America is a great nation that can solve its problems and even take on the bigger questions of world climate change and international conflict?  I am hoping they can.


Bill Watanabe writes from Silverlake near Downtown Los Angeles and can be contacted at Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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  1. I still believe that the USA is the greatest nation on Earth. Tell me how many governments have formally recognized and apologized for a mistaken policy that incarcerated many of its citizens illegally? How many governments have issued apologies? not many at all. But the United States of American did.