Osama, Obama and the Rebirth of the American Self-Image

After Hiroshima and Nagasaki a largely white America came to see itself as possessing a holier brand of magic that gave it the right to assume a kind of moral superiority over the rest of the world. After all, what rival could rise up to tangle with the big club of nuclear destruction?

It didn’t take long for this arrogance to be battered by poorly armed North Koreans and Chinese, followed by the even less well-equipped Vietnamese — women as well as men. In the wake of these misadventures America began suffering debilitating self doubt on the suspicion that its magic club wasn’t so much an instrument to spare it from being bloodied in ground wars as a means of mutually assured destruction as the Soviets began building up a formidable arsenal to challenge America’s self-appointed role as humanity’s archangel.

Fortunately, before the Soviets faded into the history books, it bestowed on the world Chernobyl — a priceless lesson on how easily we can poison the air, water and food of an entire continent with even a modest nuclear accident. If that didn’t drive home the point that nuclear weapons are useless unless we want three-eyed grandkids, Fukushima certainly did.

The cherished notion of an invulnerable Fortress America was laid to waste by 14 bold hijackers set loose by Osama bin Laden on September 11, 2001. The ensuing ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan only served to drive home the lesson that there was no magic club with which to punish and suppress our enemies. That could only be done through the willingness of Americans — of many ethnicities — to risk death and maiming in bloody ground combat.

Whatever may have survived of the old-line American arrogance was further ravaged by the greed of American financiers who, in the process of seeking obscene profits from manipulating money flows, brought about the near-collapse of the global financial system.

Through all this an embarrassing percentage of Americans clung to their cherished notion that the world’s major events were engineered and controlled by a White-male conspiracy for the benefit of the white race. This suspicion also happened to be what galvanized a significant share of the world’s population against the United States as a sworn enemy.

The election of Barack Hussein Obama in 2008 began casting doubts on this theory by showing that America is, as advertised, ruled by voters of all colors susceptible to charisma and competence even when wrapped in obviously non-white hues.

The notion of a supreme white conspiracy, on the one hand, and a colored-conspiracy against the white race, on the other, may have received its death blow on May 2, 2011 when Barack Hussein Obama, a Black man with a Muslim-sounding name, gave the nod to kill Osama bin Laden, a Saudi man with a gift for manipulating the Muslim faith to serve a deep-seated grudge against the United States.

Despite the verbal fumbling over just how the killing went down, no one in the world blames the United States for having killed Osama bin Laden. The news has been greeted by polite applause from most of the world and an eerie silence from the parts that backed bin Laden. What but nonsense can be leveled against American soldiers who avenged the deaths of five thousand killed on American soil? Especially when their target was found living comfortably in a well-fortified luxury bunker while waging a bloody proxy war against innocent civilians using sacrificial lambs who merely wanted to feed their families. What’s more, the death blow was inflicted by soldiers on the ground, not by missiles fired from some drone.

This is a moment of triumph for America because its most basic human value of justice has been affirmed after a decade of bloody sacrifice and painstaking effort. The moment is too valuable to be squandered in noisy celebration. It must be quietly tucked deep inside as a source of strength to take us through the difficult days to come as we persuade our enemies to abandon their ambitions of dragging humanity back into the Dark Ages.

That’s a mission Americans of all races can embrace wholeheartedly.