Justice is the most decent thing in the world. And today we have exacted it. America does that better than anyone, and it’s the basis for much of our existence.
But the celebrating masses in the streets of the US (obviously playing to the cameras, as they do) sends another message to the world — and ourselves. Are we savage, bloodthirsty heathens hell-bent only on revenge and demanding unwavering respect from the rest of the world?
Oh wait, that’s how we characterized the people we saw celebrating on 9/11 in Kabul, Tehran and other cities. I found those images inhuman and sickening. Could those same people view our celebrating in the same light?
Consider these two photos taken in the first 24 hours after Osama’s death, one from West Virginia, the other from Pakistan. Does this make us so different?
Older people in this country might not fully appreciate the power of these images when delivered into the hands of even the most remote civilizations of the world, via the instantaneous and ubiquitous internet. It’s about perception.
And younger Americans might not yet understand that the respect we feel we are due is very unlike the outcome of a Stanley Cup or Super Bowl — let’s not even talk about the World Series. On the world stage, this heroic event shouldn’t be about bragging rights. We are too good for that. Again, perception.
There are also people who view this situation as good versus evil. Again, a matter of perception. (And I truly wish I could walk in their shoes.)
Remember the other images from 9/11? The dazed and heroic firemen and police officers. The candle-lit vigils. The faces of resolve and determination. That should be America: tested, undaunted, united. Of course, we’re past that, because we are resilient too…we move on.
That is good. But it’s complicated.
Militarily, we are the most powerful nation in the world. And we should exert that power when we must. Obama’s boast of “we can do whatever we put our minds to” does not, nor should not, mean that we can do whatever we want in this world. There are consequences to every action, and none as plain as good vs evil.
But decency can be universal.
Finally, this picture from the Denver Post conveys that our protests might involve more attractive people, by western standards, but the energy is the same as from the East on 9/11: Aggression, exuberance, victory! All right in front of the White House. That might be what America indeed is — but is this what we want to convey as our best?
We might never be our best or “the” best again. Let’s just be better…more decent.