Proud to be an American
Today I am simply grateful for living here. In much of the world, you have to live in the constant expectation that you could be dead of violence or disease before the week is out. I learned this in Nepal, when I ate something ill-advised and was seriously ill -- had I been there eleven years earlier, before they allowed in foreign medicines, I'd quite possibly have died. A few months after I left, the whole royal family had been assassinated under suspicious circumstances, and civilians are constantly under threat of death at the hands of communists (who have given up on the idea of natural revolution). As for Africa, a roommate has been attacked with a machete, and I'm somewhat worried about Bob's father, working with an oil company in Nigeria. South Asia's got mob violence, the Middle East is constantly war-torn, Russia's got the Mafia, and South America's not all that safe either -- a friend who was with the Spanish Embassy in Peru tells me of frequent kidnapping attempts, hostage situations, and otherwise terrifying violence.
But what of the civilized/developed/western world? ("Western," of course, in the modern sense, which includes North America, Europe (with scattered exceptions), Australia, and occasionally Japan and South Africa.) You can eat food without too many problems, cell phone service and internet access are givens, and you're not exceptionally likely to be killed by walking around the wrong ethnic/religious/political group or by having the court pass a death sentence on you for hinting that you might possibly have leanings that stray slightly from state-sanctioned doctrine.
That's just not good enough, though. England is sinking further and further into counterproductive nanny-state authoritarianism. Germany has some of the least religious freedom in Europe; when I was living there, I was warned that I would face deportation if I kept going to a Pentecostal church and "deprogramming" if I went to any but state-controlled Lutheran and Catholic churches. I've seen job applications where you have to say that you've never read Dianetics (never mind whether or not you believed it) and have never belonged to a "Free" (not state-controlled) church. Religious freedom, especially in terms of personal freedoms (of speech, food, and dress), is on a swift decline all over Europe, most specifically for conservative/orthodox/practicing Christians, Muslims, and Jews. This side of the pond, the "pleasantly authoritarian country" of Canada has no concept of free speech, and their economic policies are, well, let's just say they're a main reason people think of the US as the country with great inventions and innovations and luxuries to hope for, not Canada. Australia's finished banning guns and has moved on to swords (kitchen knives are next, then belts, then hands). And we all know about Japan.
The USA has her problems, main among them being laziness-induced ignorance and gluttony/hedonism, but it would be so much worse anywhere else!
I had more to write, on mutual cultural incomprehensibility, but I must now go look at V-Ger! (I love America. We can make ridiculous sci-fi movies! Oh, wait, we're not the only ones who do that. But nobody else made Star Trek!)