It's been interesting trying to follow US politics here on holiday in the USA, in Chicago to be precise. It's easy to let it all pass you by, as both the TV and the newspapers are by and large pretty dreadful. Politics is reduced to slogans, which helps me to understand the appeal of Barack Obama - all you need to know is that he's for change, and then carry on with the rest of your life.
But this week's New Yorker cartoon penetrated this indifference to some extent. Think of a UK equivalent - say, in 1996, Cherie Blair waving a balaclava and an AK-47 while Tony sits around in a Celtic shirt. The New Yorker's defence has been that they are satirising the idea that Obama is unpatriotic. Hmm. Many are not impressed - including his opponent Senator McCain.
The event made me realise that I'm in a different culture. At home, the idea is that you don't publish things that might offend. Here, a trip to Chicago's Freedom Museum explained that in the USA, as a result of the First Amendment, the balance is much more towards expressing yourself and then fighting your corner if someone disagrees. The museum does a great job of presenting the argument that this is more democratic but, of course, more difficult when 'freedoms' contradict each other.
Could it ever catch on in Northern Ireland, I wonder?
P.S. The New Yorker redeems itself with this article.