I know that I'm not being very original when I say that the current administration in Washington D.C. disgusts me. I know there are plenty of people the world over who hold the same opinion as I do (if not a harsher one). The thing is that like so many others, I find the way they have reacted to the horror of September 2001 by unleashing further horror on the world repellent; I believe that is only a symptom of the deeper damage they have inflicted on the American character.
From the late nineteenth and through a good chunk of the twentieth century, America could realistically be called the champion of the individual. While on occasion that might have brought the country into conflict with the need for some universal and collective measures, for the most part it was an atmosphere that encouraged and fostered greatness.
I don't mean greatness of the country as a whole, although if a country is to be measured by the people it produces, then it can lay claim to some of that greatness, but the people who, through sheer force of their brilliance, thrust themselves into prominence on the world stage. Where else but in America could people like the Beats have sprung forth, or earlier poets like e.e. cummings; the expatriate communities in Paris and Tangier that included Paul Bowls, Ernest Hemingway, William S, Burroughs, and F. Scott Fitzgerald?
That's only a small sampling of people from one field of endeavour, and barely even scratches the surface of the men and women whom I believe could only have been nurtured in a society that encouraged individualism in its inhabitants from an early age. It was the feature of American society that distinguished it most from the other Western democracies.
But with individualism comes great responsibility, something that has been conveniently forgotten in recent times. Being selfish is not the same thing as being an individual, and neither is doing what you want without considering the implications of your actions and how they will affect others. But even that has become almost an irrelevant concern in the America of George Bush and Dick Cheney. Almost every act that this administration has taken, every bill they have passed, and every power they have invoked, has had the result of quashing the individual in the name of what's good for the State.