Sorry, but I just don’t buy it.

Like a lot of free thinkers, I don’t cotton to group think. So I hereby take issue with some of the “conventional wisdom” I hear from time to time.

“America is the greatest nation on earth.” For some of us, perhaps, but a closer look at our country suggests otherwise. We certainly don’t have the best health care system in the world; far from it. We’ve packed our jails with violent and nonviolent offenders, mostly from the lower income brackets, and then we turn our prisons into for-profit enterprises. And our federal government has become downright dysfunctional. Sorry, patriots, but we could be a lot better.

“The U.S. is a divided nation.” True enough, but that’s not the whole story. More than divided, we’re dumbed-down. That’s why so many people, on both sides of the political divide, believe a lot of the fabricated news going around. The real divide is between those who are capable of critical thinking and those who simply buy into the nonsense that their favorite image-obsessed celebrity or talking head wants them to believe.

“New Mexico is a poor state.” Economically maybe, but it’s still a great place to live. We’re rich in culture and diversity, and we hardly ever riot over our differences. There’s an abundance of enriching places to go and historic sites to see; we have direct connections to antiquities as well as outer space. Here in New Mexico, money isn’t God, and that’s OK.

Interestingly, the last three states I’ve lived in—Arkansas, Kentucky and this Land of Enchantment—share a familiar saying, “Thank God for Mississippi.” That’s because these “poor” states almost always rank near the bottom of all sorts of things, but Mississippi always seems to be at the very bottom of the pile. But even Mississippi has its strengths. Elvis was born there, as was Oprah, and B.B. King and even his Sweetness, the late, great NFL star Walter Payton. To produce such icons, even Mississippi can’t be all bad.

And speaking of football, you might think it’s “a sport that’ll last forever,” since it’s as American as apple pie. Actually, that might not be the case. It could lose its popularity, going the way of bare-knuckle boxing, if its connection to brain injuries continues to strengthen.

Sure, the NFL may seem to be “too big to fail,” but that’s not where the game would begin its decline. It’s more likely to start with parents pulling their kids out the peewee leagues, or off the high school teams. Nobody really knows where American football will be in, say, 20 years. Meanwhile, the other football—soccer—is on the increase in the USA.

“Losing your personal privacy, in this digital age, is unavoidable.” Sure it’s avoidable, if you’ll just turn off the damn computer. I’ll bet an anti-tech backlash is coming, when some people will abandon their electronic devices and return to a simpler way of life.

And speaking of simpler times, “America was a better place to live back in the good old days.” By that, do you mean the good old days when people of color were violently oppressed, and whites could get away with actually murdering their “inferiors”? Do you mean back when women were used and abused by men as second-class citizens? Or how about when “free speech” had to meet certain standards of decency to be acceptable? Those good old days? Get real.

“Illegal immigrants are taking jobs from Americans.” That’s not exactly true. A big reason why unskilled workers are streaming into the U.S., often illegally, is because Americans don’t want those jobs. Ask any farmer who needs lots of laborers.

And speaking of outdoor work, the idea that “everybody loves a sunny day” is greatly exaggerated. The weather forecasters on television operate on the assumption that we’re all going to be thrilled that tomorrow will be sunny and warm, but I for one actually enjoy the cloudy and rainy days. After all the dog days of this summer, I can’t wait for a nice snowfall.

And that’s what one free thinker thinks.

Tom McDonald is founder and editor of the New Mexico Community News Exchange. He can be reached at