Back in August Charlie Stross wrote a pretty biting article nominally about the release of Abdelbaset Al Megrahi but ultimately about his perceptions of the American body politic:
There is a cancer in the collective American soul — a mercy deficit that has in recent years grown as alarmingly as the budget deficit. Nor is it as simple as a left/right thing: no political party has a monopoly on merciless behaviour. Rather, a creeping draconian absolutism has cast its penumbra across the entire arena of public discourse, tainting every debate, poisoning and hardening attitudes across the board.
He’s certainly entitled to his opinion, and I can see where he’s coming from, but he went too general in his post. The United States has a population of 300,000,000. That’s a whole lot of people to draw conclusions about based on reporting that regrettably focuses on vocal minorities as often as not.
Pointing a finger across the ocean to vent about a place with remarkably different social norms isn’t productive. The United States surely has problems, and Stross is right in noting that a portion of our population seems to be ever more hardline; to move from that to “a cancer in the collective American soul” is entirely too strong, and is in itself lacking in the lower form of mercy—benefit of the doubt.