Ok whether or not you agree with anything else in that article, I link it now because it was the first time I've seen anyone else articulating what I was discussing with violettavalery here (and have bored several people with elsewhere). And from another foreigner too!
I think a failure to recognize this, uh, feature of America is behind a lot of the partisanship and cultural chauvinism this place gets. Take, for example, the issue of gun control: Americans of the typical liberal bent will say "Why are you worried about us taking your guns? People in New Zealand have gun control, and no one is bursting into their house at night and shootin' their dogs!"
Meanwhile those of the libertarian/conservative bent will say "How can New Zealanders stand having gun control? Aren't they worried about people coming into their house at night and shootin' their dogs?"
In other words, one side sees the extra craziness inherent in American government as being universal; the other simply refuses to recognize that it's there at all, and figures that we're just some minor policy tweaks and tax breaks away from emerging Athena-like as a fully-formed Norway.
... and speaking of politikul miscommunication and partisanship, it is funny how the word 'socialist' is now so flexible and subjective that it's essentially meaningless, and yet no one anywhere seems to acknowledge this. (It's a bit like 'feminist' and 'fascist' in that way, although at least most people recognize that 'fascist' no longer means anything).
So you'll see otherwise highly intelligent people arguing/getting offended over/angsting about people's use of the word 'socialist', as if it's a plain-as-day, categorical, black-and-white description like 'Linux user' or 'blond'. OH WAIT WE CAN'T EVEN AGREE ABOUT THAT. Dear God, it's like watching people get into a FOR SERIOUS debate over 4chan insults.
"I can't believe those stupid Republicans actually believe that Obama is a cockmongler. I just had to defriend eight people on Facebook over it."
"Hello? Are you blind? If you look past the lies of the liberal media, you'll see his union and healthcare policies match up identically to the literature produced by the Cockmongler Party of America. Did you even listen to his last speech when he repeatedly refered to ''LOL COCK SOUP DESU'?"
"Look, you idiot, this chart shows that even after all his reforms, America would still register incredibly low on the International Faggotry Index, and that the median household Internets Winrar rate would actually rise. You are such an ignorant extremist."