Some of these pieces are tough to write because they cross a line, an international border line.

Since my last Blog Talk I did a piece on Conversion which asks why some young people choose to become radicalized and, as part of that discussion, I suggested that our Western systems of government aren't helping the cause. The next piece was a mea culpa for my so-called "sixties" generation and the myth that we are supposed to be so much more enlightened than previous issuances. It may appear a bit over the top - but I don't think so. From mea culpa I move to picking on a foreign leader, Barack Obama, and then to taking a shot at his country's entire political system. Sounds controversial and inflammatory, I know, I'll probably get some flack on that one.

Writing anything critical about the United States is difficult. As a Canadian my opinions fall into the category of “outsider” or “foreigner” when being consumed by Americans - so they are easily written off as biased and uninformed. On the other hand, when I resided in the United States I learned that Americans who expressed the same criticisms weren’t treated much better. Even they must use kid gloves when suggesting the existence of possible fundamental faults within their system - or risk being labeled anything from a kook to a traitor.

Building this level of homogeneous support throughout their entire nation – especially given the diversity in the United States – is what helped achieve America’s stature as the most powerful nation on Earth. Unfortunately, it may also be their Achilles Heel. America is an example of how ultra-success inspires ultra-conservatism but, historically, ultra-conservatism is recognized as a prelude to decadence and a harbinger of institutionalized fear.

Since the beginning of civilization change has been the constant. It has proven time and again to be persistent and unavoidable regardless of opposition. As a result, one of our greatest challenges, as a human species, has always been choosing the right changes and implementing them in the least hurtful manner. To fight against change, or to fight against the recognition of its power, does nothing but magnify the eventual misery it will cause.

The United States has done a truly magnificent job forming a cohesive and patriotic nation from an array of highly disparate peoples, and one of its primary devices in this regard has been to convince the citizenry they live in a nation beyond compare. Yet, once you have convinced people they are at the top of the food chain, it becomes virtually impossible to continue evolving because people believe it places what has already been achieved in jeopardy. The most successful institutions are the ones that understand such fears but continue to embrace flexibility and a belief in our evolving maturity. For this to occur In America, at this stage, would require a level of openness and trust between the people and their leadership that has not been evident in many decades. It requires considerable courage and an open mind, within the halls of government, to challenge the citizenry to seek and accept the most forward thinking changes - to abandon retrenchment. Part of being a leader involves taking on the role of educator and discussion leader. However, modern political leaders appear more interested in pandering to their power bases and constructing negative attitudes toward their opposition. The result has been gridlock and a fear of transparency within governments.

As an outsider what I have is the privilege of being critical without having to confront the suspicions of my neighbors and my community. Whether this is a good or bad condition is up for debate. Criticizing from a distance can easily be portrayed as cowardly and opportunistic. Still, when a nation calls itself the best and the greatest on so many levels - and the model against which other systems should be measured - it is bound to invite a bit of contrarianism, from the other side of the line.