Inevitably, many things will remain a mystery regardless of how long I live in the U.S., and I'm grateful for that. The discovery of what makes a people unique is all part of the fun and complex process of different cultures coming together.
While the U.S.'s cultural prominence is partially related to its political, military and economic power, such power is not the only cause of America's global cultural hegemony. Rather, the U.S. offers a unique convergence of several factors.
September 11 was not only a trauma but, as with any crisis of identity, an opportunity for greater maturity. This would require serious reappraisal of the national project, beginning with the lure of self-mythology itself.
Where is the recognition that a "book of raunch," rather than reflecting a mature and vibrant culture, is symptomatic of one in steep, full-on decline, drunk on its power and narcissism (including Baker's pet vice, sexual titillation)?
Think you're immune to the fall-out? Not a chance. None of us is safe. Not even our pets. (Do you know who "friended" your Chihuahua last night?) Accompany me on a quickie tour of the seven rings of America's cultural hell.
Some people don't want to admit it, but Washington, DC is America, too. There are many ways to prove that proposition. For example, we have Little League teams, Fourth of July neighborhood parades and our own weird kind of hot dog called a "half smoke."
I hope that Pakistanis who are understandably offended by U.S. violation of Pakistan's sovereignty will keep in mind that individual Americans don't represent, nor are we necessarily well represented by, the American government.
The point is that no self-respecting human being likes to be bullied, whether in Tripoli or in Madison. In America, less urgently than in Libya but urgently enough, it's high time we reclaimed an honest and legitimately popular politics.
What is unique to modern America is that our hopefulness comes with a price tag that no other culture has ever been willing to pay. It comes at the expense of reality and the medium of exchange is our spirit.
All that is necessary to trigger mass hysteria, whether in Singapore or Terre Haute, Indiana, is a deeply held, shared belief; anxiety and turmoil in society; and a frightening event to set off the madness.