America has always struggled to establish a unique culture. One satirist, when asked, "What do you think about American culture," remarked, "I support one." Indeed, America's history shows a remarkable similarity with Edward Norton's villain in 2003's The Italian Job--someone who lacks morals and wins, but who is miserable despite obvious prowess.
If you get the sense we've been here before, you're not wrong. It's deja vu with larger numbers, more consumer debt and more vested interests, and one can realize this merely by reading old articles by Hunter Thompson and old interviews by Bill Moyers (I feel like the words, "a national treasure," should always follow a Moyers reference in the same way Muslims follow Muhammad's name with "peace be upon him" to show respect).
America's saving grace lies in its ability to absorb new immigrants willing to forget the past but not their own values and who come with unbridled, unjustified optimism possible only because they've swallowed all the right propaganda. In The Italian Job, one scene generates sympathy for the villain. We see him with all the toys wished for by all the people he's screwed over, and we realize he has no real desires of his own. The end result of his depraved genius is his ability to absorb other people's dreams and effectuate them--at any cost, moral or otherwise. Are you with me so far?
Without our ability to make other people's dreams come true, we're just a bunch of jingoistic, oil-addicted ciphers in one of the most violent, segregated countries in the world. In 2017, anyone with 20/40 vision can see America's grand experiment losing to Edward Norton's villain in an alternative ending, with no comeuppance. If we're lucky--really lucky--we'll experience reformation at some point, and the movie will change from The Italian Job, alternative ending, to American History X: "Life's too short to be pissed off all the time. It's just not worth it."