Although the word "America" technically includes all of North America (i.e. the US plus Canada and Mexico), the several countries of Central America, and the many countries of South America, it is almost always used as a synonym for the United States (of America). Furthermore, it is most often used when discussing the culture and people of the US, rather than the US as a geopolitical entity. In this usage, "America" is at least as much an idea as it is a place.
Let us define some terms for further discussion, then:
- Americanism: the culture of America as it is (rather than how we might wish it to be), from the beautiful to the ugly
- American ideal: the ideals towards which Americans strive, and which people all over the world find the most inspiring about America
- The United States: the place where American ideals coalesced and where Americanism was born (and from whence it is exported), for better or for worse