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Useful Notes / United States
aka: The United States

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"Oh, there it is. Notice Alaska? Yeah, it really is that big."

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
Preamble to the United States Constitution

E Pluribus Unum.note 

Useful information on American life and the United States for those who are not American.

The United States of America — also known as the United States, the US, America, the USA, the Union (especially when discussing the Civil War), or just the States — is a constitutional federal democratic republic occupying a large part of the continent of North America. Its mainland borders Canada from the north and Mexico from the south in its main territorial area. Outside of this territory, the nation also contains the states of Hawaiʻi in the Pacific Ocean and the vast but mostly unpopulated Alaska between the northwest of Canada and North Asia, which shares a sea border with Russia. In all, the country consists of fifty states,note  the state-neutral capital of Washington, D.C. (for "District of Columbia"), and assorted commonwealths and protectorates. As the name of the country implies, these states are more than just regional districts; each has its own distinct character and history, and state governments have a good deal of autonomy as well as influence on the rest of the nation.

The United States is the third largest country in the world in terms of population (330 million, a very distant third behind China and India, which both are over a billion ahead of that mark) and fourth largest in terms of total area (9.5 million square kilometers/3.6 million square miles, behind #1 Russia, #2 Canada, and #3 China).note  It's so huge, in fact, that it takes three to four days on end to drive from one opposite end to the other; a flight from London to Moscow is almost 900 miles shorter than one from Los Angeles to New York. One state of the fifty, Texas, the largest state in the mainland and second largest overall, is almost three times as large as the entire United Kingdom, or (for another European comparison) only slightly smaller than France (the largest country in Western Europe). Alaska, the largest overall, is over twice the size of Texas and about the same size as the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Japan combined.note  If you're planning to come here, don't expect to hit all the widespread landmarks in one trip unless you have a lot of time to spend and don't mind paying for many flights or sitting through long car drives or train rides (and if you opt for the latter, don't expect the trains to run on time; public transit has always been low on America's priority list).

Colonized by Europeans from the 16th century onward, thirteen of the British-ruled colonies on the eastern coast declared independence in 1776 and combined to form their own country under the protection of the kingdoms of France and Spain. The new settler government then removed the natives from their lands as it expanded westward, killing many of them directly when they resisted and indirectly by forcing them into places where they couldn't get enough food or shelter; Native Americans now have U.S. citizenship, comprise roughly 1% of the population, and mostly live outside of the reservations, which still exist. The government also purchased land from France, Britain (not Canada), Russia, and Denmark, annexed the Kingdom of Hawaii, and conquered territory during wars with Mexico, Spain, and (much later) Japan.

Most of the country's first century was marked by fights over the institution of race-based slavery, a legacy of European colonialism that the states fought over in Congress before eventually fighting over on the battlefield. The American Civil War, the deadliest conflict in the nation's history, eventually ended with emancipation for millions of enslaved people of African descent (the vast majority of which had been born in America) and provided them with citizenship. African-Americans continued to experience second-class citizenship, persecution, and violence in the years since, and while the end of legal segregation won by the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s and the election of Barack Obama to the highest office in the land in 2008 were signs of incredible progress, ensuring true equity for this group of Americans (roughly 12% of the population) continues to be an important issue today.

Starting around the end of the 19th century, the United States' resources and transcontinental territory situated them to become a true power on the world stage. The U.S. cemented itself as a great power after defeating the Spanish Empire in the Spanish-American War and acquiring former Spanish territories. From the end of World War II, the United States became a superpower and is now one of the most powerful and influential countries on the planet — for a time after the Cold War, it was viewed as the only true superpower on Earth (with the United Kingdom losing its superpower status after the Suez Crisis of 1956 and the Soviet Union collapsing in 1991). While some bodies have recognized China as joining the US as a competing superpower in the last decade, it still has a lot of advantages that few other countries can compete with. It is technologically advanced and possesses a large industrial base, a large military, and great financial wealth and is also one of the largest exporters of modern media, with its products being seen the world over.

The United States has a very diverse population, as its history of expansion, international prominence, job opportunities, and promises of freedom have resulted in many different groups of people either immigrating to or being absorbed into the populace. The majority of American citizens are of European descent, as the government has historically placed few restrictions on immigration from that continent. However, their majority grows smaller every year as migration patterns and immigration laws have changed, and Caucasians are projected to no longer be the majority within the next few decades. Americans of Hispanic descent make up around 17% of the population, a legacy of the war with Mexico and the two nations' shared border and also of Puerto Rico, which America has claimed as a territory for over a century. Asians have been immigrating to the U.S. from across the Pacific in large numbers since the 19th century, and though the U.S. government long attempted to limit this, the Asian American population has grown to around 5% of the nation's total since restrictions were mostly lifted in the mid-twentieth century.

The country's government consists of three branches, the legislative branch, the judicial branch, and the executive branch. The leader of the executive branch has commonly been viewed as the country's main political leader and (supposed) role model for the American people: The President of the United States.

The Parts of the United States of America

American Culture and People

American Sports

American Government and Politics

American History

American Media and Communications

See Media Classifications for American (and other) video game and movie rating systems.

The American flag
The blue field represents freedom and independence, the white stripes represent peace, and the red stripes represent the blood shed to earn and keep both. The flag's thirteen alternating red and white stripes symbolize the original thirteen colonies that declared independence from Britain on July 4, 1776 — Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts Bay, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, South Carolina and Virginia — and the fifty white stars on the blue canton reflect the Union's current composition of fifty states. In the case of a fifty-first state joining the Union (most likely Puerto Rico), there is a 51-star flag on standby.

Great Seal of the United States
Click here to see the reverse version 

It was adopted in 1782 (6 years after the United States declared independence on July 4, 1776).

The American National Anthemnote 
O say can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner, O long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country, should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation.
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the Heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: 'In God is our trust.'
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

  • Federal presidential constitutional republic

  • Capital: Washington, D.C.
  • Largest city: New York City
  • Population: 331,449,281
  • Area: 9,833,520 km
(3,796,742 sq mi) (3rd/4th)
  • Currency: United States dollar ($) (USD)
  • ISO-3166-1 Code: US
  • Country calling code: 1
  • Highest point: Denali (6190.5 m/20,310 ft) (14th)
  • Lowest point: Badwater Basin (−85.5 m/−281 ft) (9th)

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Pledge of Allegiance

Alternative Title(s): United States Of America, US, USA, The United States, America