I take a fair degree of crap, (along with constructive criticism, not the same thing) here on the interweb and elsewhere, for taking a negative view of humanity as a whole. Some would even go so far as to use the term "elitist," which (when applied as a negative) used to be an insult meaning "guy who thinks he's better than everyone else" but now tends to be an insult meaning "guy who thinks." To be frank, for the most part I can live with either one. I'm far less fond of the various permutations of "hypocrite;" more specifically the question of how a blogger who calls himself a Patriot and plasters a giant American flag at the top of his page can be so "down on" his fellow countrymen vis-a-vi their various voting and filmgoing habits - i.e. the opening paragraphs of THIS review: http://moviebob.blogspot.com/2007/11/review-mist.html
Now, my normal inclination would be to point out that that's essentially the same thing as asking "how can someone who claims to love hamburgers hate McDonalds?," but since I've got a fairly juicy bit of objective evidence for my discontent to present shortly I'll entertain the query and offer the best answer I've got: I love America because of the ideals it represents, was founded on and on it's better days actually lives up to. Go actually READ the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Seriously. Then read up on the guys responsible for it on the intellectual side. Read Jefferson. Read Franklin. Hell, want to mainline the good stuff? Read up on Thomas Paine, the guy who helped inspire those fellas. Within all that, the basic fundamental greatness of America is revealed: America is great because there IS an "I" in it - because all of the then-revolutionary ideas in this nation's inception grew out of a STILL-radical notion that the protection of the rights and freedoms of The Individual were of paramount importance.
That, I'd posit - with only the sum total of human history to back me up - is the reason WHY this country works and indeed works so well: Placing primacy on the individual encourages... DEMANDS, in fact... that said individuals live up to the label, i.e. that they be capable of free thought, independent reasoning and possess a reasonable degreee self-sufficiency. This is how we manage to weather things like Civil Wars, Depressions and mentally-deficient leadership better than most other large-scale nations: A society that derives it's strength from collectivism (see: Imperial Rome, the Middle East NOW, the Soviet Union) can be devastated simply by striking the "weakest link," while a society largely comprised of individuals capable of independent thought and strength can endure through major 'wounds' because the fates of all AREN'T all bound together.
Individualism, of course, has it's drawbacks; chiefly that it's HARD. Making your own decisions, living with them, having to offer folks you don't agree with the courtesy of coexistance... these aren't easy tasks. Not everyone is up to them. Some would rather sacrifice liberty and individuality for an easier route... a "greater good." They would prefer that a State - or perhaps a Church, or a Dictator - simply tell everyone exactly what they are and are not allowed to do or say or think, thus taking the terrible burden of decision-making and responsibility off of them. There're a lot of words, historically, to describe such people; but I prefer the most direct: They are weak, and they are COWARDS.
In our current world, the greatest illustration of this basic conflict comes on the question of Government Censorship - because it cuts to the very heart of the question: Do you have the fortitude to be an individual where living in a free society means having to frequently endure the doing and saying of things you find distasteful in order to ensure that YOU may do and say things others find distasteful? Or are you weak in mind and spirit, and thus willing to not only discard your freedom but steal the freedom of others in exchange for a more "mellow" state of things? Do you want expression to be free and unfettered, accepting the "Survival of the Fittest" prolonged slugfest that comes from such? Or do you want expression to be controlled by The State in order to avoid any feathers getting ruffled or tummies being made upset? Just about every great "social issue" of our time comes down to that essential pair of choices.
Now, then. The reason I tend to get so down on "the folks" sharing America with me is that, looking at the broad societal trends of our time, I can seldom escape the mounting dread that Americans in that first category, i.e. the folks who actually value freedom, was slipping into the minority. It's a fast-paced, scary world, and that tends to make people wobbly and more eager to throw freedom away in order to feel safe or pretend to right some percieved wrong. But I never had a hard number to attach these impressions to.
"The Escapist," the really wonderful online Video Game news organization currently best-known for hosting the brilliant "Yahtzee" Croshaw's "Zero Punctuation" game reviews (http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/editorials/zeropunctuation), carried with it a poll by the Opinion Research Corporation regarding how American's were feeling about the idea of the Government stepping in to regulate violent/explicit video games. Lots of numbers in there, but here's the big one: 51% of those surveyed "believed the government should be regulating the actual content of the games." Not just the SALE of the items, or the application of a rating system. 51% of Americans, apparently, want the Government telling artists what they can and cannot put in their work.
You can see it HERE:
51%. A margin wide enough to win an election. 51% of Americans do not want to be free, and do not want others to be free. 51% of Americans want The Government to curtail individual rights, the very foundation of our country, in order to make them feel safer and comfier. Because they are weak. Because they are cowards. Because they don't have the spine to deal with making their own decisions. They want the Government to do it for them, and for you.
In other words, folks, 51% of Americans have no business calling themselves "Americans."