Paging through my commonplace book, I came across a comment Rich Hall, one of our favorite US comedians, made in his BBC broadcast the night of the 2004 presidential election:
"The biggest rift in the US is not religion, not race. It's between the stupid . . . and the very stupid."
He (intense, skinny southerner) then treated his sidekick (laid back, paunchy Canadian) to a diatribe in a Montana convenience store inspired by a pressurized can of Easy Cheese, "as opposed to difficult European cheese." This segued into a discussion of how Americans take the Declaration of Independence very seriously, especially the part about the pursuit of happiness: "Americans pursued it, they found it . . . and they ate it."
For an excellent article by a Seattle-based Brit looking ruefully rather than scornfully on our stupidity, see Jonathan Raban's "Sipping with the Tea Party": http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/oct/16/tea-party-movement-jonathan-raban
A choice paragraph from the above:
As Obama continues to talk to the nation as if we were grown-ups capable of appreciating the intellectual complexities of the situation we're in, he leaves more and more of his audience hungering for schoolroom certitudes and simple rules of thumb. So Christian fundamentalism has led directly to constitutional fundamentalism, in which the US Constitution is held to be a sacred text, to be interpreted literally, word by word. Palin herself has said that the Constitution is "law based on the God of the Bible and the 10 Commandments". The constitutional pietists, whose lips move as they trace the words with their forefingers, love the tenth amendment, which reads: "Powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." Because the Constitution fails to mention the minimum wage, Medicaid, social security or the department of education, Tea Party fundamentalists such as Joe Miller in Alaska and Sharron Angle in Nevada argue that such costly governmental fripperies are patently "unconstitutional", discretionary luxury items, to be adopted or rejected by individual states and their peoples. If we were only to read the Constitution aright, we'd be out of debt and recession tomorrow.