In answer to the Good Doc's comment:
If the question is, "Can't this country be better than it is?" I think the answer is yes; but when I compare this nation to what I have seen in Asia, the subcontinent, India, Africa, and throughout Europe, including what was "behind the iron Curtain" when I travelled those countries, then I think what we have had in the United States ... I think you and I are sitting in the most free nation on this Earth. [If we are not, why do all those immigrants from so many nations, and those who are illegal border jumpers keep wanting to come here?]
I don't think the malign inhumanity of our ruling class (and the corporate infrastructure that serves them, e.g. by our news media's near-exclusive support for monied interests) is incompatible with a benignly neglectful 'American goodness.' Indeed, I'd say the 'greatest country on earth' nonsense is just one angle on a kind of A>B>C>A cycle of preference: the U.S. is healthier than Britain, which is healthier than Denmark, which is healthier than the U.S. (Fill in whatever countries you like, there.) The point of the post is that some things are better here than elsewhere, after all, despite the manifest injustice of our arrayed social forces.
Among 'first world' countries we (uniquely, embarrassingly) have: an unbelievably high incarceration rate, a 'free' press that produces totally ignorant citizens, a lamentable public education system, an insane health care system/philosophy (holistic/preventive health is a dirty word in this poisonous country), and an addiction to 'sanitized' violence that manifests everywhere from the TV to our military sojourns in the Middle East.
Many Americans could not care less about these things, because they have 'other things to worry about.'
At the same time, there's a chaotic instability to month-to-month American life that many people find refreshing. In the right light it resembles opportunity. Day to day, things are complicated. On one hand, you're not likely to be locked up for having the wrong political opinions in this country; on the other hand, you have absolutely no say in the decision - on the part of the Congress, the Courts, and the Executive - to, say, erect a completely lunatic health care edifice, or commit to a decade of war in some distant sandstruck hell (or lush jungle). The U.S. government won't lock up 10,000 pro-democracy protesters like the Syrian bastards have lately done, but that's because the U.S. government simply ignores pro-democracy protesters entirely.
Have you seen The Wire? You simply must; it's better than all but, say, three or four dramas in the history of American television. One of its grand tacit arguments is that the 'American system' is essentially disconnected from American community - not just in a 'go federalism' anti-statist way, but even down to the mayoralty-hates-the-local-poor level. The opening scene of the show has a cop talking to a kid about his friend Snot Boogie, who's lying dead on the street, a casualty of the drug war. Snot Boogie used to come and steal the pot at the local craps game. Every damn time. The kids knew he'd do it, but they always let him sit in. The cop asks why the kids kept letting Snot Boogie run roughshod over them like this.
'Got to, man,' the kid says to the cop. 'This is America.'
The dead boy grows colder.
It's a nice allegory, I think, of the contradictions and ironies that crosshatch the 'American Dream.' The 'freedom' that the boys enjoy is all their own; the cop and the kid can chat amiably, if warily, on a stoop at night; various underground economies (drugs, gambling, street-level influence) operate unsupervised; the boy knows that Snot Boogie's fate will probably be his own, someday, and that the cop will be a part of that fate. The dead boy was permitted, welcomed, and his thievery was simply part of the fabric of their daily life; the kid has an idea about what 'America' is, what it represents, but as a poor black teenager in the inner city he knows - and the cop knows he knows - that he will never, ever, ever be welcomed into the corridors of power. The police are all over the scene, of course, working hard, doing their damnedest; they won't find the killer and they'll never stop fighting the murderous 'drug war' that did him in.
Everyone is welcome to play the game and everyone loses in the end. The ones who win, who take, don't have to play at all: they're the ones running the game. They're the 'sheltering hand.'
We're kept in the dark, and say thank you for the chance to rest in the shade.
I don't feel cynicism about this country. I feel anger.