An Uneasy Feeling
All Americans must appreciate the outpouring of good will, unity, and hope for a successful Obama administration. But I had a certain feeling of uncertainty yesterday at the coverage of the festivities.
Let me preface that worry: I did not think much of Bill Clinton our modern-day Alcibiades. But all through his administration, and of course before and after it, I thought a great deal of the United States, especially in comparison to the alternative.
Before Clinton bombed Milosevic in 1998 I believed that it would have been wiser to have gone to Congress and gotten an authorization to use force (as in the case of Bush in 2002). He might have also at least tried to convince the UN (as Bush attempted in fall 2002). But no matter: he began bombing he said to stop genocide, and I wrote an op-ed at the time for the Wall Street Journal calling for unity to ensure an American victory over Milosevic.
Whether Obama is President or McCain had won, no matter; it is still the US, and as a Jacksonian I pretty much pull for America—all the time. I am not a Socratic citizen of the world—given the thugs that rule most of Africa, the creepy places such as Iran or Russia or North Korea, the land of the Lotus-eaters in Europe, or the tribal dictatorships I’ve seen in the Middle East
I thought Jimmy Carter proved a self-righteous disaster and endangered the nation—remember the hostages in Iran, and the rise of radical Islam, the commies in Afghanistan and Central America, the holocaust in Cambodia, the oil mess, the sanctimonious preachy lectures, etc.—but I never thought that only with the ascension of Reagan could I really be again proud of the US.
The point? I distilled from the press coverage and the crowds and the punditry yesterday that for all too many suddenly a vote for Obama redeems America. Now, to paraphrase Michelle Obama, for the first time in their lives they are apparently proud of the United States. (Had we not had the financial meltdown in mid-September, and had Obama stayed three points back in the polls, would millions have stayed soured on America and now in sullen silence licked their wounds?).
So I am surprised that suddenly the election of a single individual means that we are united, patriotic, proud of America? Suddenly Okinawa or Antietam, or all those who died at the Argonne, are ours to claim again? (This reminds of elementary school, when our third-grade split up into two sides, as the teacher quizzed us on geography–and the losers of the contest cried and said unfair and how they didn’t like school or Mrs. Wilson, and then when they won the next day, how suddenly third grade became glorious, and Mrs. Wilson and her games were once again wonderful).
But America was always ours, the public, and the nation transcends the proposition of whether Obama gets elected or not—given that the United States, in its worst hour, was better than the alternatives at their best. So I think it would be wise to cool it on the “I am now proud of America” rhetoric. If getting your way means suddenly the dead at Iwo or those who were blown up in B-17s over Germany are at last your own and matter, then we are in deep trouble.