A large, complex, and important nation, located in North America. One way to understand my country is in the following Manichean sort of way:

Things that are great about the USA:

• From sea to shining sea an entire world of nature’s gifts are in one country - humid deciduous woodlands, endless prairies, jagged snow covered mountains, moonscape deserts, tundra, rolling verdant hills, coniferous forests, tropical swamps, ancient redwoods, geysers, inland seas, thousands of miles of coastline, and a hundred thousand lakes. This is a land where everything from arctic foxes to alligators roam free, which contains every natural resource and which produces enough food to feed itself several times over.

• The entire amazing mosaic of humanity is wrapped in one country. Every ethnicity, religion, language, cuisine, ideology, temperament, lifestyle, literary preference, profession, fetish, sport, craft, and hobby has a presence in America.

• The United States has a strong tradition of democratic ideals, and a widespread belief in the equality of mankind and that freedom and liberty are sacred, which are embodied in foundational documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, and which have been repeatedly reaffirmed in mass movements and struggles.

• In contrast to the culture of most countries, American society generally has less rigid social strata, and the culture is in a process of continually reinventing and renewing itself.

• Almost unique among nations, the United States guarantees to its citizens the right to keep and bear arms.

• There are an endless variety of different places to see and live and feel, from the most important and intense city in the world, to empty tracts of wilderness, to everything in between.

• All of the above and an extraordinary sense of individuality, optimism, and spirit have led to some of the most profound innovations humanity has ever produced, including, but not limited to, critical advancements in science and technology, seminal works of scholarly and artistic genius, cultural phenomena that have spanned the globe, and some of the most successful and important institutions in the world.

• Partially as a result of all of this, a considerable segment of American society enjoys levels of material prosperity and geographic and socio-economic mobility, and a freedom to pursue their interests and generally fulfill their potential, on a scale that is unprecedented in human history.

Things that are bad about the USA:

Corporations have and continue to exercise appalling control over the politics, policies, priorities, and very social organization of the country.

• A considerable segment of society does not enjoy secure prosperity or mobility, but it rather locked into a situation of diminishing wages, increasing debt, crumbling social institutions, and political marginalization.

• The most disadvantaged parts of the population exists in a state of shocking poverty, violence, and mass imprisonment.

• In spite of the extraordinary opportunities offered by widespread freedom and prosperity, the spirit of much of the population is stunted by a mass-marketed popular culture of unfathomable vapidness. This culture urges people to literally define and validate themselves through their purchases, and has often led to some of the most banal widespread conformity ever seen.

• The governmental system of the United States has some very undemocratic elements, including the corrupting way in which political campaigns are funded, wildly disproportionate representation in the Senate, an entrenched two-party system, systematic disenfranchisement of large segments of voters, and a process for drawing political districts that benefits incumbents.

• The state of political and social discourse in the United States is appalling. The nature of the media system prevents debate on, or even contemplation of, important issues, and the dominant paradigm for discussing the important affairs of the most powerful nation on Earth is that of ‘sound bites’ and polls. This manifests itself in the level of ignorance of geography, history, and current events often displayed by Americans.

• As with many nations, the founding and development of the United States was marked by terrible atrocities. In the case of the USA these were the wholesale genocide, both unintentional and intentional, of the indigenous population of an entire continent, the kidnap, rape, murder, and enslavement of 100 million Africans, and the historical and ongoing exploitation of them and other poor and immigrant populations at home, and of the poor in other nations throughout the world.

• Unique among western nations, there is a strain of religious fanaticism in the United States, to the point where a significant portion of the population does not accept such scientific truths as evolution.

• The nation’s infrastructure has been for several decades, and is currently, much too centered around the automobile. The result has been the unique ‘suburban sprawl’ that characterizes much of the country, without alternate modes of transportation or lifestyles adequately provided for. This contributes to a wildly disproportionate percentage of the world’s resources being consumed in the United States.

• Today more than two million Americans are in prison, more than in any other nation on Earth.

• The diet of most Americans consists of unhealthy amounts of over-processed, high fat, high sugar, nutritionally devoid foods, resulting in by far the highest rate of obesity in the world and a very high incidence of cardio-vascular disease, adult onset diabetes, and other diet related health problems.

• Much of the citizenry interprets the right to keep and bear arms as the right to brandish arms for one's personal benefit, resulting in the highest rate of violent crime in the developed world.

• Throughout the past, with shameful episodes ranging from the Fugitive Slave Act to COINTELPRO, and currently with the War on Some Drugs and the War on Some Behaviors, the government has often made a mockery of the founding ideals of freedom and liberty.