Think about it - we're a country of over 300 million people, and each of us is told, and honestly, earnestly believes that we're special. That we have a right to pursue happiness. There's no guarantee that happiness will ever happen. We're just cleared to chase, lunge and claw after that happiness, like an eternal dangling carrot. Our dreams matter. This is pounded into us. It is part of our collective DNA. Everyone is special. We believe it, even if it isn't true.
When we succeed, we succeed big (see: the Empire State Building, Moon landing, cheese-stuffed pizza crust). When we fail, we fail big (see: the Great Depression, Slavery, Spider-man 3). We lurch and strive and aspire to greatness. Other countries fear us (not just because we have over 7,000 tactical nukes, though how utterly crazy is that?). They fear us, mainly, because we are an experiment, and experiments can explode. Or they can go on a rampage, like Frankenstein's monster.
These two things are also America.
Frankenstien might actually be the closest cultural predecessor. America isn't a democracy where majority rules. We're an anti-tyranny-ocracy. We're terrified of tyranny, no matter what form it takes: the government, the free market, your neighbors. The mob can never fully be trusted. Don't tread on me. Get off my lawn. The forefathers had total faith in two things: "freedom" and "people are jerks." They knew that power corrupts, and so they created a system where power is like a bacon-grease slathered football: slippery.