Maybe I’m just forgetting.
But I seem to remember that the horrors of September 11, 2001 united our country, that partisan politics were set aside, at least for a day or two while even the worst of political enemies locked arms to show Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida that even such a sickening, unthinkable act of terrorism could not divide us.
We are strong, we said.
We believe in our country
We believe our leaders will protect us.
So I find it ironic (and sad) that the death of bin Laden has had the opposite effect. Osama bin Laden is dead and his death should have been another such unifying moment in our history. But instead of displaying a united front, instead of standing behind our leaders and telling the world that democracy works, that democracy is worth protecting and defending, we have exposed our worst weaknesses.
And doing so, we have offered fuel to anti-American fire.
A loud segment of our population immediately declared to the world an intense distrust for the president we elected to office. They told the world they believe he lied about bin Laden’s death, that they think he’s hiding something. They could give no reasonable explanation for this distrust, leaving the rest of us to assume the worst, that they distrust him because he is black and because his parents gave him a traditionally Middle Eastern name.
Then, it got worse.
These same people demanded a photo of the dead body, declaring that the photo would provide proof (Would it, really?). Even more Americans joined in this rally, not because they wanted proof, but because they have a grotesque and base need to see the dead man.
They feel so strongly that they are willing to suspend common sense and risk our national security for its sake.
Those who deny or belittle the security risk are naive.
We are a capitalist society. Within a day, we would have t-shirts, banners and mugs bearing bin Laden’s face in death. We’d probably even have a video game or two. Al-Qaida supporters who might have been on the fence about participating in further attacks would be incensed enough to throw themselves into the cause full force.
Bin Laden would most certainly achieve martyrdom in the eyes of his followers.
Even our allies would cringe at our nation’s behavior.
Regardless of whether the photo is released, the damage has been done. The event that was supposed to bring closure, to bring us full-circle from the horrors of September 11, 2001 and provide the world the ultimate proof that democracy works, has backfired.
We have shown the world our weaknesses.
We have shown al-Qaida that we are not as strong as we pretend to be, that perhaps we can be divided and defeated. We have show our enemies and our allies that our melting pot is broken. Certain differences cannot be dissolved within it because there are those who are unnecessarily and unjustifiably frightened by some of its ingredients.
I hope we can overcome this.
I hope President Obama remains strong in his decision to keep the photos secure.
I hope those loud voices fade and are forgotten, within and without of our nation.
I hope that when my children are adults, they will not experience anything like this.
That their hearts will never be as heavy as mine is today.
Maybe I’m just forgetting.