I'm not a US citizen - I need to say that up front.
But when I was growing up I had an image of America as a magical place - the promised land, and I know I wasn't alone in that.
NASA, Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Death Valley, the Constitution, Elvis, Evil Knievel, Computers, Films, Music. If it was cool, exciting or expensive, the biggest, the brashest then it was made in America, invented in America or could only be afforded by Americans.
Progress, change, intelligence, freedom and idealism defined America in my mind. When I grew up I wanted to live there. America was where the future happened and I lived in the past with my cups of tea, Queen and depressing weather.
America simply was the best country in the world, it was irrefutable.
It may have been fantasy but it was an important fantasy. It defined my expectations and aspirations, it was my yardstick for what was progressive, modern and good - in every sense.
And then when I was 11 I went there. Cape Canaveral, Disneyland, all you can eat restaurants. It was all true. Heaven existed right here on earth.
Maybe it was me - maybe I broke America. Because after I'd seen it, after I'd touched it something started to change.
The last time I visited the America was Texas just before Bush was re-elected. I could taste fear, hate and religion in the tap water. A waiter there, the guy who served my burger came and sat with me at at my table and quietly poured his heart out. He felt he could say things to me - an anonymous foreigner - that he he couldn't say to anyone else. Things about God, politics, corruption. He'd woken up felt all alone and didn't know what to do, he couldn't understand how it had happened, he never saw it coming.
At some point a sense of entitlement engraved with "In God We Trust" had infected the magic.
Just say the words, print it on the money and everything will be OK. No need to think - that's elitist, no need to sweat - that's demeaning. I want my MTV. Ignorance became an opinion, fact became debatable, up became down. Because we say so - Q.E.D.
How things had changed since I was 11. Zombie movies and Deliverance had become insightful metaphors.
And yes I know deep down that this new view of America is just as much a fantasy as my first. The truth was always somewhere in between.
Maybe I just grew up and saw through the veneer and realised that the world is an unfathomably complicated place with deep eddies and currents. Just like my waiter.
But are we really doomed to a world of mediocrity, vested interests and small selfish ideas? Must we put up with the cynical political manipulation of the superstitious, the glorification of stupidity and ignorance?
I miss the America of my childhood imagination - a benevolent role model for the world, somewhere where things were always better than here. I want it back, I think we all want it back.
Or have we just grown up?