Thank you, GMB. I hoped I would make sense to someone.
Regarding my class comment--I don't know how vital it is, but here goes. I think you are right that Americans are very aware of class distinctions, but I also think it is a very American idea that no one is stuck or destined to stay in a specific socio-economic strata. Frequently, these two ideas come into conflict and we end up with some curious conclusions: people can be upwardly mobile, my ancestors worked hard to get ahead, thus people who are not upwardly mobile are lazy. I have power, you do not, therefore I must be better than you. I struggled, I got where I am, therefore I must make you struggle. We make social policy based on these completing beliefs. We make hiring judgments based on these competing beliefs. And we learn to manage and treat "underlings" based on these competing beliefs, to the point of dehumanizing people in an effort to maintain the idea that we treat all humans well.
I think many Americans are so hell bent on believing this is a land of equal opportunity that they cannot see the ways in which it is not. I also think other Americans use their success to fuel a belief in a meritocracy wherein their superior abilities or genes have placed them above others, as opposed to their social class or economic advantage giving them a leg up.