It seems to me that there exists a tendency in American culture towards binary thinking, to believe that all that exists is black or white, while missing out of the rainbow of colors in between. “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists” ignores the reality that it’s possible to be critical of the Afghanistan war while at the same time being even more critical of Bin Laden & Co.
I see this tendency in many parts of American culture, the wish to characterize positions, people and issues as good or evil, healthy or unhealthy, yes or no. But reality often benefits from compromise.
It’s offensive to suggest that if I do not support some American policy or other, it implies that I’m a terrorist-supporter. The real world has more than 2 positions. It speaks badly of USA that a man who would say such things could win an election.
American patriotism can be disconcerting. Especially when someone is simultaneously very much convinced that USA is the worlds greatest country in every conceivable way while at the same time having very scant knowledge of the outside world.
Hollywood movies sometimes unintentionally end up as parodies of themselves, for example the audience here in Norway laughed at certain scenes from “Independence Day” (which just happened to be on 4th of july, of course)
USA is a very wealthy country. GDP/capita is over $50K, yet it also has a income-distribution on par with feudal dictatorships and unheard of among wealthy democracies. The wealthy in USA are insanely wealthy, but at the same time there is a large and growing underclass who has seen few or no benefits to the productivity growth over the last generation.
Poverty by itself, is not a social value. But the political climate that creates this problem is. Even more disconcerting than the level of poverty itself is the fact that it’s growing yet very few meaningful steps towards solving the problem are being undertaken. Instead it seems to me that many people blame the poor for their poverty. Talk about “welfare queens” and the like is epidemic.
Anti-vaccination. Aliens abductions. Intelligent design. Truthers. Global warming denialism. USA seems to be a particularly fertile breeding-ground for all sorts of irrationalism. And a disconcerting number of these are being taken seriously enough that, for example, elected politicians seriously argue that they should be given a place on the science-curriculum.
The political system in USA leaves much to be desired. In practice it all-but guarantees a two-party system where you’re forced to vote for the “lesser of two evils” rather than a more fair proportional representation. This is particularly baffling since many Americans take particular pride in USA being the foremost defender of Democracy.
The more I look around, the more I come to believe that we have a surprisingly large “not my problem” problem. With great respect for the many charitable givers, volunteers, and activists out there, I see it — across subgroups and political labels — taking two main forms:
- A direct and dispassionate, “That’s not my problem.” There are certainly plenty of cases where one shouldn’t assume the issues of another individual, but I think everyone needs to be at least somewhat tuned into issues faced by whole groups of people.
- A passionate but passing, “Someone ought to do something about that!” — where the “someone” is clearly not the person expressing the sentiment. (I have been guilty of this at various times over the years.)