Men will lie on their backs, talking about the fall of man, and never make an effort to get up. — Henry David Thoreau 
America — the land of the free, the home of the brave, the arcadia over which our star-spangled banner waves under halcyon skies and purple mountain majesties. Our Founding Fathers believed in creating a nation unlike any other, a nation steeped in equality, individualism, idealism. And we have come a long way in realizing that vision — huge strides in equality, unparalleled masters of individuality. But idealism lies raped, pillaged and bleeding on our golden shores. Today Barbie is an American ideal. If she were real, she’d also be dead.
Previously viewed as an Eden for those desiring life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, America has been supersized, yuppified, and marketed beyond all recognition of its former self. Even Michael Moore has sold out. Dear old (loud, fat, obnoxious) Michael now epitomizes the U.S. of A (even its obesity crisis): Bitch about what’s wrong with the world, offer no solutions, then market the hell out of it by engaging in very practices you so righteously loathe.
Once a country fastidiously pursuing Max Weber’s Protestant Ethic to save our souls, we are more intent on buying those souls wholesale. This IS America — capitalism our prime virtue, hubris our drug of choice. Where once pioneers and immigrants came to this country, hoping with enough hard work they might achieve success, today we take the “American” Dream for granted. We don’t believe we need to earn it anymore — we deserve it.
Where once Americans were self-assured, today they are frustrated; where once our character was whole, today it is a fractured fairy tale. Saints and martyrs are judged by the quip of their soundbite rather than the content of their character. Take away our drugs, our therapist, the double dose of Viagra with our morning Mountain Dew, and we’re still empty, we’re only more annoyed and don’t have the energy to pleasure ourselves. We masochistically cling to our labels — ADHD, Obsessive Compulsive, Manic Depressive. Without our dilemmas and diagnoses we would have nothing left. So here we are now, entertain us: the fittest of the survivors on Ritalin.
But maybe it’s not Ritalin we need, but lithium – the prescription for a national character suffering from a rather nasty case of bipolar disorder. Our elders maintain we live in the greatest country on earth, one still filled with decency, honesty, and courage, while Generations X through Z couldn’t give a shit. The “whatever” and “who cares” mentality pervades and plagues us.
An our character is only as unwavering as its nation. As a nation, we have become dichotic, hypocritical, duplicitous. We wallow in moral outrage when some jerk steals a foul ball from a cute little kid; yet produce reservists who sodomize Iraqis with chemical lights. We teach abstinence in school but love our smutty TV programs. We are the most understanding of countries (remember that President we impeached, then forgave, for getting a hummer?) but we execute more people than any other country, except for those other beacons of freedom Iran, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia.
We may swear allegiance to a land that’s free and even under God (thank you, Justice Scalia), but what right do we have to force that view on others? Who died and made us the bringers of light and wisdom — spreading the seeds of democracy and chaos like the Johnny Appleseed of international instability? “Confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law,” the part of the “Star Spangled Banner” no one remembers, “till selfish gain no longer stain the banner of the free”  – well, we are still working on that.
The rest of the world looks at us and sees the Brady Bunch as the paradigm for middle class American life replete with happy lives, toothpaste white smiles, and peppy pre-Prozac dispositions. But do they realize that in America, the actor who played Mr. Brady died of AIDS? Do they realize what they see is an illusion, a mirage of flickering blue light from a satellite TV?
Then again, maybe we don’t fully realize how much others may hate us because the essence of the American character is to judge people by the best they can be, not the worst they are. We bank on the largesse of human kindness outweighing the trivial smallness that divides us — even if that smallness is what we love to put under a microscope.
The question we must ask ourselves is in the end, will any of it matter? In ten years will we be able to tell the difference between the haters and the hated or will we be there at the farmhouse window, eyes blurry with age, looking from neocon to jihadist, pig to man, and be unable to tell them apart? Don’t you love farce? Where are the clowns? Oh, don’t botherÃ¢Â?Â¦
Even if we’re moving forward in the wrong direction, isn’t that better than standing still? Progress is progress. Isn’t it?