There is something profoundly sad about America's sense of itself as the leader of the 'free world', the defender of democracy etc. when most of it's friends in the world are dictators and bullies. Bush's foray into the hotbeds of democracy oppression is the latest example. I suppose it's the ability of human brains to live with paradox that explains how Americans can disconnect the self-perception of America-the-free with the reality of American-interests, which almost always appear to represent the worst kind of grubby materialist values.
The Christian Right likes to blame the left's immorality for America's troubles, I guess I'm that much more of an extreme protestant that when I look at individualism American-style the most offensive part to me is the worship of Mammon, and the idolatry of capitalism.
I'm more of a free enterprise now ! kind of guy. I believe in the state only to the degree that I believe that when I go into a store I expect there to be service people capable of helping me buy what I need, ie., the government are staff people, they work for the tax credit union that is the citizenry. I'm also a big believer in the notion that one day consumer cooperation will reduce even the most arrogant of corporations to bankruptcy court.
The notion of the human capacity for living with paradox reminds me of the chimpanzee/benobo/human evolutionary split. Allegedly, (therefor metaphorically, parabolicly, and therefor pedagogically useful) the three above mentioned hominids had a common ancestor.
As you may or may not know, one band of chimpanzees controls the borders of their own territory with violence, if they meet a 'foreign chimp' in the liminal regions of their turf a fight ensues: hence the belief that humans derive from a violent ape. The benobos on the other hand, control the borders of their regions with sex. They make love not war.
Humans are capable of either response. Dynastic politics, whether of the national imperialist kind or of the local family compact type, are a way in which the sex or violence option has been used to maintain relative stability among peoples.
The issue being paradox, rather than simply the paradox of sex and violence, and this web log being devoted to the paradox of being both independent and communitarian, then I shouldn't be too surprised that the essential paradox of America is freedom and tyranny.