I am unable to defend my country on most of the actions it takes.

America has been a hustling, money-driven nation from the start. This tradition goes back to Jamestown and Plymouth, in which there were many important values, but in which the most important thing of all was money. It has continued on this luckless continent throughout time unto today. One cannot say it doesn't apply to the founding fathers, for they were all rich aristocrats, first and foremost. And today it is almost more than ubiquitous. We don't endure on a principle of freedom. We endure on a principle of profit and growth for the sake of growth.

The good things that have come out of America have nothing to do with the culture at large. It is those who go over, under or around that culture who make the really good stuff.

Jefferson and his ilk were not only against corporations and big business, they were even against a central bank. I guess Hamilton had the vision that such a thing would be necessary, and founded it as Secretary of the Treasury under Washington, but bank note speculation became a huge deal. There were corruption scandals involving Congress, and many people became superrich through speculation in bank paper. In some respects, though very different in scale over time, America has had a continuous thread running from the beginning, as far as the unscrupulous making of money is concerned.

Like Rome -- just like Rome -- the U.S. allocates most of its resources, and spends more than it can afford, on the military. It tore Rome apart.

Thomas Jefferson's philosophy was filled with luminous ideals and good intentions, but when the rubber hit the road and he presided over the nation, he turned quite as much to expediency as anyone else.

Say what you want about Trump; the fact is that he is what our society has produced. He is what we have to offer. This is the real America.

America has no real tradition or experience as a society. The opposite pole would be a country like China, with a rich traditional and historical awareness going back thousands of years. We're not even three hundred years old. We're rudderless. And it shows.

There is no benefit to being in the Middle East whatsoever. It is a quagmire. These people have been fighting each other for over a thousand years, and there is nothing we can hope to gain by pouring gasoline on the fire. There is no conceivable endgame except more instability. We're in over our heads over there, and there's no constructive way out that will work. We went in for oil and strategic interests, and now we can't (or won't) get out. It's fucked.

Well, the second amendment is clearly an anachronism. Don't get me wrong, I'm a gun owner and I support gun ownership, and of course any sort of prohibition would never work anyway, just as alcohol prohibition didn't and couldn't. But this amendment was designed by and for colonial Americans. It made sense then. Even though I support guns, as I said, the world is diametrically different than it was in late eighteenth century America. When gun nuts go off about the second amendment, it seems stupid because there's really no balance of power anymore between the government and the people. An uprising of armed militias would be quashed immediately, and it would be silly. So to protect the right to defend against a misbehaving government is rather ridiculous, and that is what the amendment was designed for. Again, I'm not arguing for an abridgement of this right. I just think we should have it in a bit better perspective. If there can be effective legislation against some of these murders, I will support it. There's nothing anyone can do with a Republican supermajority, though, so for the moment such propositions are totally academic. And gun deaths are a minuscule fraction of total deaths in this country. That's not to say it's okay, but driving around town in one's car is infinitely more dangerous, as car deaths outnumber gun deaths by tens of thousands to one. Still, it's a problem that deserves serious attention, and there are certainly no easy answers.

If the U.S. ever experienced a true economic collapse, my guess is that the situation would look more like rioting and chaos than an organized civil war.

It seems the U.S. needs an enemy. We don't have a center without one. I guess we'd rather have Cold War II than live peacefully with other nations, even ones who may not see eye-to-eye with us. For the life of me, I cannot see why we can't cooperate with Russia the same way we do with, say, China. We are very wary about China in this country, most likely because of the anti-communist bullshit we can't seem to shake, but we do business with them to the tune of trillions annually, so it's a peaceful coexistence. For whatever reason, we want Russia to be a villain. We're very sanctimonious and hypocritical with them. No, Putin is not a particularly good dude, but that hasn't stopped us before from having alliances. As far as Crimea, it's woefully misunderstood. It is historically Russian. Krushchev ceded Crimea to Ukraine in the sixties in a show of pageantry, not knowing the Soviet Union would collapse! For Russia to annex it makes a lot of sense to them, and is not really an invasion of a foreign country as far as history is concerned. Crimeans are essentially Russian -- they speak Russian, they are pro-Russia and pro-Putin, and they have a direct historical continuity with czarist and Soviet Russia. If we were to be democratic about it and hold a vote in Crimea, they would support annexation. So this issue is badly misunderstood. Unfortunately, it has fanned the bonfire against Russia in the West. I wish we could cooperate with the Russians rather than pick a fight with them -- it would be much better for both parties. But I suppose the gloves are off at this point, and the Russians can only make the hole deeper as they defend themselves and do what they can for themselves. Like I said, we're a bunch of hypocrites on this. What should be done is that we call of hostilities, and enter a peaceful, if not necessarily sanguine, period of coexistence and cooperation. This bullshit has got to stop. The Russians are a wonderful people.

Is our failing democratic tradition to blame for our problems, or is it rather our current expression of neoliberal capitalism that is at fault for our woes? Perhaps it's an amalgamation of both.

One of the problems with the libertarian/conservative argument is that in 2016, in a country of 320 million people, government has to be rather sizable, unfortunately. Think about it, there are over a million federal employees. Most of them are doing necessary, nonpartisan work. Hell, the Republicans relatively recently created the Department of Homeland Security, so you can't rely on them for smaller government. Less government is probably always better, but I think too little government, in this day and age, is probably as irresponsible as too much.

I'm a diabetic and I am therefore very expensive. Single-payer is the only option that would truly work for me, but most Americans are afraid of "socialism," and moreover, most Americans don't really give a fuck, and don't understand the reality of our healthcare industry, which is essentially medieval. Obamacare was better than what came before it, but even it is not really that affordable, at least for me. But shit, I'm covered, thank God. I don't expect to see single-payer anytime soon, and I'm not optimistic that the Trump administration can improve upon the ACA. I'd rather hover than not have coverage, though. But single-payer would be a dream for me.

The American political system, and by inference the Constitution, is obsolete. It worked satisfactorily in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and most of the twentieth, centuries, but is now quite broken. The fact of the matter is that China is the up-and-coming power of the twenty-first century. No one can deny that. Their political system, for all its faults, would never elect a person of Donald Trump's incompetence, inexperience and overall disability to the Politburo, or any other agency of national government. And the proof is "in the pudding": what did our antiquated American system recently do? Elect a Donald Trump. Many millions of Americans like his Jacksonian, wrecking-ball policies -- because things can't get any worse for them -- but anyone of sound mind has got to disqualify him for his aforementioned inexperience and related incompetence, his unsatisfactory general intelligence, and his overwhelming penchant for utter dishonesty. It's very sad that our country has come to this, and the situation will very probably get worse before it gets any better.

As far as ranking the presidents, even a top three, the only president who showed any real restraint and decorum, sincerely listened to everyone's opinion, and wasn't a partisan hack, was Washington. Carter was maybe the best man, and certainly one of the smartest, but an awfully ineffective administrator and not a good president. I can't name a top three because I don't think we've had that many good ones.

America preaches equality among its citizens, but there is no country in the world better at masking its own class structure. America is a class society, and in reality, there is no real equality here, at the very least on an economic basis. One must also realize that the notion of equal treatment under the law is a sad myth. The founding fathers preached egalitarianism, but it was never quite able to take hold. Of course, these men were mostly white, upper-class, propertied slave owners who never had any concept of what it is like to be poor. In the end, most of our citizens idolize the rich, and they themselves, the vast majority, will never achieve appreciable wealth status for themselves at all. It all strikes me as a well-oiled machine catered to the rich, with an occasional concession thrown in now and then to keep hope alive. No one here is communally equal in any meaningful way, but the rich shall be able to withhold their privilege and their impunity as long as people believe that they are.

Maybe some people belong at the top and maybe some don't, but let's stop pretending we're all equal in every meaningful sense. The people at the top sure don't.

Civilized society probably does have to be a lot like this, at least at this point, but there is no principle at work making necessary a situation in which it has to be so beset by perfectly soluble problems we just can't seem to stop bickering long enough to fix. I will say, just looking at Europe compared to the U.S., that America could do a hell of a lot better today.

What the conservative establishment of the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s did not understand was that a person could be rather far left and not be a card-carrying communist. The Red scare and all that was one of the most tragic follies in the history of our republic. McCarthy, Korea, Vietnam, etc. All pointless.

Freedom of speech is permitted because it is really no danger to those in power. If it were, it would very simply be completely disallowed, as it has been at times historically.

In the vast majority of human cultures that have existed, age brings dignity and the elderly are treasured for their experience and wisdom. American society is one of the very few which essentially does the opposite. Here, the elderly are ignored, seen as useless and are usually and quite sadly alone.

Bierce was never rich. Nietzsche was never rich. Orson Welles was never rich. Robert Anton Wilson was never rich. Tim Leary was never rich. Monetary wealth is, clearly, not a measure of individual worth, as I have just proven beyond doubt. Such a thing only depends on what sort of available niche there is in which one can find oneself. As Buddha and Jesus were very fond of pointing out, there are far more important matters than one's income. Capitalist America's barometers are in many ways poorly calibrated.

I feel that man's spiritual state right now has got to be up there with some of the worst in history. In the U.S., it's particularly bad. We have all this money, and absolutely no meaning in our lives, just some materialist stupor in which we drift from point to point without ever really interacting with anyone else. Man could not be more spiritually bankrupt than in the modern age, and by all indications he is not particularly happy in any significant way. We've had all this economic growth and no existential growth, and indeed it seems we have regressed significantly over time. It's very sad.

The ethos in the United States of America is to organize society around greed and selfishness, even explicitly. The highest good here, instilled from childhood, is to make as much money as possible for oneself, and not worry about anyone else.

USA geopolitics over the last seventy years or so can be likened to the poking and prodding of a hornet's nest and expecting no consequences. Now, the hornets have left the nest and a few of them are attacking, and we're shocked and having trouble coping. Many bellicose Americans wish we could simply destroy the nest, secretly. I'm not saying any of the violence is acceptable; but we would have done well to assess the possible consequences of our actions rather than just blundering around meddling in the affairs of a host of other nations and cultures. This is a game and this is how the game works; it's rather ridiculous to be surprised when the opponent makes a move, however disgraceful this move may be in reality. American culpability in this whole thing is enormous.