One reason is as a legacy of imperial expansion concerning the extermination of the indigenous population. However, I see that as itself a mere application of the underlying issues.
In America everyone is self-righteous. Every American sees himself as “good”. Jostle someone off-balance in a crowded area and you often get an angry response, as if the jostling was a personal affront. To Americans I guess it is. Americans act as if there is no solidarity, and they therefore have to constantly defend themselves against an aggressive or at least uncaring world. Ironically, this process and pre-consideration *creates* an aggressive and uncaring world.
There is tremendous insecurity in Americans. They act as if tomorrow they could wake up to a shattered life, that their destiny is entirely out of their hands. This feeds into greed, the feeling that one always has to have more more more, to secure oneself against the considerable possibility of having less, less, less. The Hoarding instinct is strong with them.
The combination of Individual Goodness and Insecurity is a fatal mix for society. While Americans inevitably believe themselves to be always good, they have no such feelings about the rest of Americans, especially ones with obvious differences from them (such as a different ethnicity). They are more than ready to interpret any action they don’t like as being *Evil*, and more than ready to show their Good selves by taking matters into their own hands. This is done for an obvious reason: they are the only ones they are *sure* are Good. Maybe the police won’t see the evil for what it really is and let them go. Maybe the police will be too lenient on them when Evil always deserves a horrible fate. Maybe a tolerant jury won’t exact the right justice. Maybe a rich lawyer will get them off, and then the Evil will return to destroy the Good (themselves). Evil is devious… maybe their hesitation in not immediately destroying the Evil will allow it to continue.
The Bible’s influence should not be neglected: American culture is steeped in religion and Christianity. God is schizophrenic, but God can certainly be vengeful, and there are no limits to the ways in which Evil is treated. Evil, one can say, brings out the Evil in God.
So they, necessarily Good Americans, need to be agents of good, agents of God. And they are honored by God when an opportunity arises, when Evil emerges, to display their Goodness and ease their insecurity regarding their morality by exterminating the Evil. Killing Evil is like taking a really good shower. Cleansed in God’s love.
Exterminating evil then serves two purposes: fulfilling the will of God and securing one’s own moral and material status. Calvinism links the moral with the material – a poor life is necessarily an immoral one.
Because the law deems all Americans non-evil (or at least to have equal rights), most Americans fear to act on their own assessment of the evil of some of their neighbors, that others will not see the evil as they do. So they take out their wishes vicariously, by watching righteous violence on television or at the movie theater. How lucky these people are, Americans think, to not have an oppressive law to stop them from fighting evil. When Americans know the law is weakly enforced, such as in the American South with respect to black people, there’s no need to applaud for violence on the movie screen and they can take on a more pleasing role. The blood can be on their hands.
It should be obvious at this point that the American culture I’m describing has no hope of solidarity. It’s a culture quite directly opposed to solidarity. Which means that before we can have socialism in America we need to transform the culture into something conducive to it.
When I was on a messageboard called Quarter to Three I was always amazed at the many stories of neighbors doing something the speaker didn’t like, but instead of talking to the neighbor about it the speaker would plot some sort of revenge, or wring their hands about what to do. It was apparent that their view of the neighbor was very negative, with some mixture of fear and antipathy, perhaps hatred for this bad person, Evil person. They considered talking a kind of quaint notion which only served to display their own ignorance regarding evil and their weakness at displaying this ignorance would just make the evil person more aggressive.
God bless America. That is to say, God, you’d better fucking bless America to try to make up for all the shit you’ve caused it.