It often takes the perspective of a foreigner to tell us interesting things about ourselves. De Tocqueville famously did so in 1831 and on the bicentennial of his birth, The Atlantic Monthly asked Bernard-Henri Levy to write "In the Footsteps of Tocqueville" (subscribers can download the full text; first installment in the May, 2005, issue).
Curiously, the writer is surprised by Americans' ideologies and ideologues, both of which he had expected to see less of than in France. He also sees assimilation (and aspirations to assimilation), moreso than in his homeland.
Levy also visits the Mall of America -- but neglects to mention that is has a much more powerful hold on Americans than all of our ideologues put together. More Americans shop than vote and more Americans care to be savvy about shopping than about politics.
That's not all bad.