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Bronze-level article

United States

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You can always count on Americans to do the right thing — after they've tried everything else.
Winston Churchill[1]

The United States of America (U.S., U.S.A., Unitum Civitas, Imperium Americana[note 1], or simply "America"[note 2]) is a secular federal democratic republic consisting of so-called states, mostly located in North America, and unincorporated territories, which are not yet either set free or taken into the Union because of politics. There are currently 50 states in the Union, of which Michigan and seven other states have names that begin with M.

It is currently the world's only superpower, though India, and China are catching up fast. As of 2016, the US ranks tenth on the human development index, alongside its Northern neighbor, Canada.[2]

Alongside the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, India, Pakistan and North Korea, the U.S. is an official nuclear power. Unlike any of them, however, it so far remains the only one to have used nuclear weapons in war, in particular to compel the Empire of Japan to surrender at the end of World War II in 1945.

The incumbent President of the United States is Donald Trump.

History[edit]

Things America borders on: Canada, Mexico, and self-parody.
—Ken Jennings

Settling[edit]

Native petroglyphs.

Following Columbus's successful voyage to India the Asian-continent-which-was-colloquially-known-as-India-at-the-time across the Atlantic Ocean in 1492, European began migrating to North America. The continent was named for the mapmaker who pointed out that he was not quite right, though similar care was not taken when naming the native inhabitants.

The first permanent English settlement founded was Jamestown on the coast of present-day Virginia, in 1607. In a stroke of irony, the Puritans who fled Europe in the name of freedom of religion ended up persecuting other people for their religious beliefs.

The French and Spanish also founded many colonies in what was to become the United States (and Mexico) in the 16th and 17th centuries, most of which were later sold (by France) or lost in wars (by Spain and her successors) to the U.S. (American) English is the de facto official language of the United States, despite its multilingual origins.

Founding and expansion[edit]

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, And this be our motto: 'In God is our trust.'
The Star-Spangled Banner, second verse (with no irony intended)[3]

A century and a half later the richest East Coast colonists got teed-off about having to pay stamp taxes, while drinking inexpensive East India Company tea, because they had invested a lot of money into politics so they would be exempted from the dirty, peasant-ly things like taxes that even The Better Sort Of Person had to cough up in The Old Country. So naturally they went and started a revolution, and refused to pay for it. They did avoid conscription, as in the Seven Years' War, given the risk of provoking the peasants. But they felt it was safe to impose higher taxes on the peasantry and create a hyperinflation spiral through deficit spending. Unsurprisingly, initial recruitment was poor given the nature of the cause and the attendant risks and rewards. So in the most populous colony, Virginia, they offered any man willing to fight for Freedom a free slave.

With valuable assistance from France, Spain and the Netherlands, the revolutionaries won a war against one of the greatest empires the world had ever seen and disbanded their army, giving them no pensions or social assistance. Imposing taxes three to four times higher than they had been before the war, and issuing more currency to pay off the loans that they had given to the states' governments, they effectively forced many veterans to sell their land and slave bounties to survive. In 1786, this caused a lower-class uprising. Shay's rebellion of disgruntled veterans and ordinary people marched on the Springfield Armoury in Massachusetts with the intention of overthrowing the government and, it seems, implementing a democracy. It was crushed by other veterans hired as mercenaries out of the plutocrats' own pockets. Afterwards the plutocrats reimbursed themselves for the expense, out of the public purse.[4]

After taking the Indian lands immediately to their west - which London had forbidden them to expand into during the colonial period - and a massively failed attempt to establish a confederation which almost killed the country, in 1789 a second attempt worked out way better. A few years later the U.S. bought "Louisiana" (at that time stretching from the current state of that name to Minnesota and Montana) from Napoleon, who was broke, doubling the size of the country. After beating Mexico in a war over the U.S. annexation of the Republic of Texas (a breakaway territory still claimed by Mexico), the U.S. extended its territory through what had been New Spain to the Pacific. A little trimming here and there, and the acquisition of the Pacific Northwest, established the continental boundaries that today seem so… manifest.

Alaska was purchased at a rather low price from Russia when no one knew it was rich in oil and gold. The natives of Hawaii were conquered by a corporation that gave the islands over to the USA.

Civil war[edit]

While some U.S. states wanted to maintain the institution of slavery, others opposed it. For both moral and economic reasons, the tension between these two factions continued to grow worse. When a large portion of the Southern states attempted to secede from the Union, they discovered that while they might have had a better army, the North had all the factories and railroads and most of the population. President Abraham Lincoln managed to preserve the Union, albeit with heavy loss of life on both sides.

But the fight against systemic racism was not yet over. In the aftermath of the Civil War, laws were introduced in order to prevent Blacks from voting and many Southern states were racially segregated. Despite the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, almost a century after the end of the bloodiest conflict in American history, while black people theoretically enjoy all the same liberties as whites, they continue to form a socioeconomic underclass in many areas. State-mandated efforts to ameliorate this, affirmative action, are despised by some conservatives and libertarians, who call such measures "reverse discrimination."

Modernization[edit]

Panoramic view of the Chicago skyline at dawn.

About two scores after abolishing slavery, women were granted personhood.[note 3] Also around this time, alcoholic beverages were banned, and then decriminalized.

At the end of World War II, the U.S., unlike the rest of the industrialized world which was in ruins, rapidly became an unrivaled economic powerhouse. The creation of the Interstate Highway System back in the 1950s under President Dwight D. Eisenhower made the US a leader in public infrastructure, a status it could regain today provided it is willing to spend the money.

In a 2016 poll 25% of Americans identified as having no religion. 58% of those, (14%-15% of Americans) actively reject religion. Young Americans under thirty are much more inclined to be non-religious than older Americans. The proportion of Americans who are not religious is increasing steadily and likely to increase further in future,[5] as is expected of a developed country. Becoming a true welfare state could accelerate the trend.

Present day[edit]

Valley view of the Yosemite National Park, Northern California.
Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone, Wyoming.
Interior of the Grand Central Terminal, New York.
The city of Missoula, Montana, is experimenting with zero-fare public transit.
Seattle Central Library, Washington State, viewed from 5th Avenue.
Rachel Carson Homestead, Springdale, Pennsylvania.

A sample license plate from Massachusetts, home of the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston University and the Boston Tea Party.
Aerial view of the Livingston gravitational-wave detector site, Louisiana.

Religious fundamentalism, racism and conspiracy theories[edit]

I have a foreboding of an America in my children's or grandchildren's time... when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what's true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.
Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World

The United States as God’s chosen nation[edit]

How dismal it is to see present day Americans yearning for the very orthodoxy that their country was founded to escape.
Christopher Hitchens[6]

Some Americans think they are God's own nation or God’s chosen nation, and those who hold to that most strongly are Bible Belt Protestant fundamentalists, grabbing at straws in some effort to feel special. It is very difficult to find any Biblical support for this view, being that the people who wrote the Bible, living in the Old World of the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, and classical antiquity, didn't know the North American continent even existed; the closest such fundamentalists have come so far is by combining the Puritan Pilgrims' mythology with British Israelism. Under Dubya, all this fitted together nicely for them: a Christian fundie President like themselves was leading God’s chosen nation. Since the election of a non-fundamentalist, they may have a problem with this fantasy. A few religions and sects were founded in the US, including Eckankar, Mormonism, Satanism and Scientology.

Those who are openly white-supremacist carried on much as usual, repeating Confederate or Nazi conspiracy theories for the millionth time as they stockpile more machine guns. But the well-documented latent racism of the more extreme elements in the Republican Party manifested itself in different ways; some became Birthers, for example. But it would be no surprise if they had even more trouble coming to grips with Obama than with Bill Clinton, who to their mind was equally left-wing.

Some religious fundamentalists feel the need to make documentaries on the origins of every single thing found throughout America, and its "Babylonian/Roman/Egyptian/Satanic origins", completely forgetting that meaning for symbols can change. For example they throw a fit about how the Statue of Liberty is a Roman goddess, and how cities which are laid out (6 by 6 blocks) are "sun blocks". (Some even say the pattern of city blocks adds up to 666, which it does, but it's inevitable when you're working on a 6x6 area on a city.) Some of these videos you can't even figure out what they are talking about.[7] There isn't a single thing on US soil that wasn't accused of being "idol worship" (not even George WashingtonWikipedia's W.svg himself[8]) or "Satanic". Even the US flag is of "Babylonian origin"[9]. America's even accused of being founded on Islam![10]

Of course even if all of it were true, and the genetic fallacy weren't a fallacy, then so what? The fact that Jesusland worships your bogeyman isn't proof that God exists. The "masonic origins" of a bunch of things in the US is to be expected as many of the founding fathers were Freemasons.[11]

American conspiracy theorists in a nutshell[edit]

Political parties[edit]

See the main article on this topic: United States Politics
Every political revolution in America consists now of one party just trying to undo all the shit the other political party did. No actual law has been preserved in this country since, like, 1968.
—Drew Magary, Make It Stop

Civil rights: Justice for some more than others[edit]

Indigenous affairs[12][edit]

In 1997 the American Indian, Eskimo and Aleut population was 2.3 million, or 0.9 percent of the total population. [13] However to be eligible for Bureau of Indian Affairs services, an Indian must be a member of a Tribe recognized by the Federal Government, have one-half or more Indian blood of tribes indigenous to the United States or must, for some purposes, be of one-fourth or more Indian ancestry. In 1993 the Bureau of Indian Affairs estimated that 1.2 million of the Indian population lived on or adjacent to Federal Indian reservations and were eligible for Bureau of Indian Affairs services. By legislative and administrative decision, all indigenous people of Alaska are eligible for Bureau of Indian Affairs services and programs. [14]

The gap in life expectancy between Native Americans and whites narrowed from 11 years in men and 15 years in women in 1940 to four years and three years respectively in 1980. [15] In 1990, 9 per cent of the Indian population were tertiary graduates compared to 20 per cent of the total population. [16] Labor force participation rates are lower and median family incomes are on average US$14 000 per year below other American families. In 1989, 31 per cent of American Indians lived below the poverty line. [17] In the 1995 fiscal year US$6 billion (0.08 per cent of GDP) was allocated to 140 programs administered by 40 federal agencies. [18]

The 1998 Fiscal Year budget of the Bureau of Indian Affairs was US$1.73 billion. Approximately 50 per cent of the operating budget is administered by tribes and is used for tribal courts, law enforcement, housing, social services and education. In 1924 the United States Congress extended American citizenship to all Indians born in the territorial limits of the United States. Indians are also members of their respective Tribes and these are legally regarded as 'sovereign domestic nations'. Indians thus have dual citizenship. Indians have the same right to vote as other United States citizens. [19]

S.J.Resolution 19, 103rd Congress United States of America, 5 January 1993.In Hawaii, where native Hawaiians comprise approximately 20 per cent of the state's population, the Hawaiian Sovereignty Elections Council is investigating the possibility of restoring Hawaiian Sovereignty.

Between 1778, when the first treaty was made with the Delawares, and 1871, when Congress ended the treaty-making period, the United States Senate ratified 370 Indian treaties. Since 1871 relations with Indian groups are by Congressional acts, Executive Orders, and Executive Agreements. There are 287 Indian reservations, the largest is the Navajo Reservation of 16m acres (65 000 sq km) in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. Many of the smaller reservations are less than 1000 acres (400 ha) with the smallest less than 100 acres (40 ha). On each reservation, the local governing authority is the tribal government, but its power in law enforcement, education, taxation and water rights varies from tribe to tribe. Approximately 22.6m ha of land are held in trust by the United States for various Indian Tribes and individuals. Both the Indian tribes in the lower 48 States and the regional corporations in Alaska hold the rights to subsurface minerals and have a veto over mining on their land. [20]

In 1993 the United States Congress, in a joint Senate and House resolution to mark the centenary of the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii resolved:

... it is proper and timely for the Congress on the occasion of the impending one hundredth anniversary of the event, to acknowledge the historic significance of the illegal overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii, to express its deep regret to the Native Hawaiian people, and to support the reconciliation efforts of the State of Hawaii and the United Church of Christ with Native Hawaiians. ... [Congress] apologizes to Native Hawaiians on behalf of the people of the United States for the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii on January 17, 1893 with the participation of agents and citizens of the United States, and the deprivation of the rights of Native Hawaiians to self-determination ... Nothing in this Joint Resolution is intended to serve as a settlement of any claims against the United States.[21]

Mathematics, science and technology[edit]

The mathematical physicist Josiah Willard Gibbs was one of the first Americans to receive a PhD.
Main mirror of the James Webb Space Telescope being assembled at the Goddard Spaceflight Center, Washington, D.C.

Since the end of World War II, the United States has been the largest powerhouse of mathematics, science, and technology. Although the sudden influx of gray matter from Europe certainly helped propelled the nation to the forefront, its potential for intellectual achievement was already manifest early on in its history, limited only by an obsession with practicality.

The Department of Energy's Office of Science oversees national laboratories located across the contiguous United States: the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, CA, the Argonne National Laboratory, IL, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, TN, the Los Alamos National Laboratory, NM, and the Brookhaven National Laboratory, NY. These engage in both fundamental as well as applied research. With the exception of Brookhaven, they all participated in the Manhattan Project, though Los Alamos is the most well known. Argonne was then known as the Metallurgical Laboratory, or Met Lab.[note 4] It was here that Enrico Fermi and his team assembled the first artificial nuclear reactor, Chicago Pile-1. The Fermi Accelerator National Laboratory (Fermilab), also located just outside the Second City, is named in his honor.

The National Institutes of Health, headquartered in Bethesda, MD,[note 5] has 27 campuses and centers conducting biomedical and healthcare research. Next stop: Universal healthcare. Please fasten your seat belts.

Americans were also the first to detect gravitational waves, predicted by Albert Einstein in the early twentieth century. After numerous ingenious attempts since the 1960s, they finally succeeded in 2015 and publicly announced the breakthrough in 2016. This project, the Advanced Laser Interferometer Observatory (aLIGO), has two L-shaped arms, one in Livingston, Louisiana, and another at Hanford Site, Washington State. Three physicists who were instrumental to this project earned the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2017.[22]

President Eisenhower created the National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA), which, at the instigation of President John F. Kennedy, landed the first people on the Moon in 1969. Despite popular misconception, NASA does much more than space exploration. For instance, it monitors global levels of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas driving anthropogenic climate change.

Like the City of Paris, France, the town of Princeton[note 6], New Jersey, has one of the largest population of mathematicians in the world.

Despite all that, a poll of 2,455 U.S. adults taken from Nov 7 to 13, 2007, found that 62 percent believed in a literal Hell. Only 42 percent, of those surveyed said that they accepted Darwin's theory of evolution,[23], which is lower than expected in a developed country. It is clear that the Department of Education has some work to do.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. Comrade Stalin approves!
  2. There is some controversy in whether the U.S. should be called America, since many Spanish-speaking countries and several parts of Europe are, inexplicably and incorrectly, taught that "America" is one continent when in reality, there are two continents with this name, North and South. For our purposes here, "America" means the United States of America.
  3. The Supreme Court recently added corporations to the personhood ranks. See Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission
  4. Get your mind out of the gutter!
  5. Get the pun?
  6. Home to many beautiful minds.

References[edit]

  1. National Churchill Museum
  2. http://hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/2016_human_development_report.pdf
  3. See the Wikipedia article on The Star-Spangled Banner.
  4. Isenberg, Nancy, White Trash - The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America (London, 2016) pp. 88-89, 96-97
  5. The Six Biggest Takeaways from a New Study Documenting the Amazing Rise of Non-Religious Americans
  6. https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/339140-how-dismal-it-is-to-see-present-day-americans-yearning
  7. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTj7nD_h0iI&list=UUOKGMQaJ9Gw9qaomGoNjPZw Something about… Land being separated on 36 blocks with D.C. on the "Devil's Block"?
  8. Quote-Mining warning: Stephen Schroeder. "Part 1 The REAL Secret America- Great Seal of Lucifer". http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=syD5f7cIDCc&index=49&list=UUOKGMQaJ9Gw9qaomGoNjPZw. 
  9. according to a quote-mine in this video.
  10. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUzQhpdjQ08&index=44&list=UUOKGMQaJ9Gw9qaomGoNjPZw
  11. It doesn't stop people from quote-mining Discovery Channel to pick apart every monument in D.C.
  12. Indigenous Affairs in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, United States of America, Norway and Sweden
  13. United States Census Bureau. Census facts for Native American Month. October 1997 census.gov
  14. Who is an Indian? Answers to Frequently asked questions on: doi.gov (March 1998).
  15. Woollard, Keith et al. op.cit., pp. 5-6.
  16. United States. Bureau of the Census. We the first Americans. Washington: Dept of Commerce, 1993, p. 4
  17. United States. Bureau of the Census. Statistical abstract of the United States 1996. Washington: Dept of Commerce, 1996, Table 52.
  18. Indians in Canada and the United States. Information Sheet published by Dept of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and available on: inac.gc.ca (March 1998).
  19. Are Indians U.S. Citizens? Answers to Frequently asked questions on: doi.gov (March 1998).
  20. What is a reservation? and Do Indians have the right to own land? Answers to Frequently asked questions on: doi.gov (March 1998).
  21. S.J.Resolution 19, 103rd Congress United States of America, 5 January 1993.
  22. BBC News: Einstein's waves win Nobel Prize in physics
  23. http://uk.reuters.com/article/lifestyleMolt/idUKN2922875820071129?sp=true