Americans are pretty much in agreement that spying on friend and foe alike is necessary for national security and that their allies should even be grateful for that. In the end, the efforts of the intelligence agencies have prevented numerous terrorist attacks— not only in the United States, but also in Europe. Anyone who thinks international pressure can change that opinion doesn't really understand the United States. A little bit of help in understanding might be provided by watching the first episode of the TV series “Homeland,” in which the paranoia that has driven U.S. domestic and foreign policy since Sept. 11, 2001 is so colorfully illustrated.

As united as the nation is outwardly, inwardly it's as divided as never before. In Congress, the two parties can reach no compromises to pass new legislation. A minority of Republicans — the so-called tea party faction — even succeeded in nearly causing national bankruptcy. Their enemy is the government in Washington; their goal is to weaken it. That's why they block legislation whenever and wherever they can and picket the White House waving the Confederate flag, attempting to get rid of Obama's health care reform. The Confederate flag was the banner adopted by those Southern states that seceded from the Union in 1860-1861. Washington was also the enemy in those days, but it didn't end well for those who seceded.

The “New Confederacy,” as Washington Post columnist Colbert I. King calls it, is no less radical than its predecessor even if they don't intend to start a shooting war. They treat President Obama as churlishly as the old Confederates treated President Abraham Lincoln. It makes little difference to them if they happen to bring down the nation in the process, writes King: “For the moment, they are getting what they want: a federal government in the ditch, restrained from seeking to create a more humane society that extends justice for all.”

Tea party influence in Republican-controlled states is even greater. Some of them refuse to participate in the new health care reform program even though the federal government will fund everything for at least the first three years. In many Southern and Midwestern states, minority voting rights are being curtailed.

The voting issue rightly worries prominent U.S. expert Ronald D. Gerste, who wrote in the Swiss newspaper “Neue Zürcher Zeitung”:

“The vehicle for accomplishing this is to require the presentation of a photo identity card at the polling station as a requirement for voting. While this may sound harmless from the European perspective, where every citizen has a passport or identity card, in the United States it is a deliberately contrived strategy for maintaining power: The government's official photo identity document in the U.S. is the driver's license. Which demographic group is least likely to have a driver's license is not hard to guess: poor and especially older African-Americans.”

Gerste and King may not consider such actions to be necessarily racially motivated, but the controversy didn't arise until a black man moved into the White House, if they remember correctly.