Does one syllable make all that difference…

I have wondered whether the right wing stateside have considered Obama more of a threat to the American way of life than Osama. I can’t begin to imagine the pressure Mr President is under, forced to release the details of his birth; now the certificate is out in full, it seems Donald Trump and others wish to pursue this further, suggesting that the artefact is a forgery, “It’s very inventive computer art!” says arch opponent, a lead lawyer at the head of the ‘birther’ movement, Orly Taitz. We await the Court’s decision, and come what may, this is a story that will run and run. It is clear that for some, Barak Obama could never be a natural born American, and remains undeserving to serve his country as its First citizen and Commander-in-chief.

Now one has authorised the execution of the other, does that resolve the argument, or does it mean Mr President is given a month off before he is once again at the sharp end of such politics? What frightens me is that Obama’s more recent actions, approving the execution of Osama bin Laden, have led to an outpouring of extraordinary gratuitous celebration.  A week ago, the American journalist, David Sirota wrote an excellent piece for Salon, in which two paragraphs really caught my drift. The first highlights the widely held view across the western world about the burning of books, flags, buildings, lootings and the general celebration of death. After all, we fought a world war against such tyrannies.

“For decades, we have held in contempt those who actively celebrate death. When we’ve seen video footage of foreigners cheering terrorist attacks against America, we have ignored their insistence that they are celebrating merely because we have occupied their nations and killed their people. Instead, we have been rightly disgusted — not only because they are lauding the death of our innocents, but because, more fundamentally, they are celebrating death itself. That latter part had been anathema to a nation built on the presumption that life is an “unalienable right.”

To be honest, if that were all David wrote, I’d be worried. But he has caught a real mood shift in younger people across the United States, arising since the Twin Towers disaster, who really do wish to see the body count matched piece by piece. I can’t forget the images of the dead bodies of Sadam’s sons paraded across the screens, nor the Heinz variety of justifications that approved the internments without trial in Guantanamo Bay nor, for that matter, the lamentable behaviour of troops from across the NATO forces caught up more generally in the inhumane treatment of prisoners of war.

“This is bin Laden’s lamentable victory: He has changed America’s psyche from one that saw violence as a regrettable-if-sometimes-necessary act into one that finds orgasmic euphoria in news of bloodshed. In other words, he’s helped drag us down into his sick nihilism by making us like too many other bellicose societies in history — the ones that aggressively cheer on killing, as long as it is the Bad Guy that is being killed.”

As I regularly lead School assemblies that focus on the challenges we face as we strive to become better humans working in a society that genuinely serves our collective needs, the Ob/sama paradox is a really tough nut to crack. Is it possible for a nation to legitimise murder without trial? I was born just after the West had spent 4 years managing the Nuremburg trials, at which the Nazis were appropriately held to account by a Judiciary as independent  as we could muster. If nothing else, will an independent inquest hear the case for the as yet unexplained shooting of a wanted terrorist?

About jameswilding

Academic Principal Claires Court Schools Long term member & advocate of the Independent Schools Association
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2 Responses to Does one syllable make all that difference…

  1. Pingback: The Threshold of Change RSA-US| RSA United States

  2. Lolita Jackson SEAS'89 says:

    Let me start by saying that I have a unique perspective on this topic as a black American female who has spent loads of time in the UK and is also a survivor of both the 1993 WTC bombing and 9/11. I worked on the 70th floor of the South Tower and was there both times.

    Right after Obama got elected, I was on a panel discussion at a conference that was 1/2 British attendees and 1/2 American attendees. The assumption by the Brits was that I would be overjoyed by Obama’s election. Quite frankly, I was indifferent. And the reason is because of precisely what is happening to him right now – I knew he would never be able to become a truly effective president. Many people, both black and white, deluded themselves into thinking race relations would take a radical turn for the better, and that his mere election would solve all our problems. I surmised two things [and said them both on a panel several days after the election, so this can be verified]: 1) He would never be able to pay much attention to black issues because he can’t be ‘The Black President’. 2) He cannot be hyper liberal or he would never get reelected. Not only that, people were not really listening to what he said he was going to do, rather, they simply projected onto him what THEY WANTED him to do. He would be a center-left president and not liberal left. Therefore the first people who would start to become dissatisfied would be black people and liberals. The liberals dislike him because they feel he is afraid to do the right thing, the black folks are becoming disenchanted [witness the recent Cornell West flap], also adding that the racists dislike him simply for who he is. Obama will have this situation for the remainder of his tenure. He can prove his loyalty 1000 ways and it simply doesn’t matter. Many people, particularly foreigners, don’t understand that.

    Secondly, I think Britain has a LONG way to go regarding black people, and one reason is that many people under 40 encountered minorities, more specifically black people, during their days in college and thus interacted regularly in class and ultimately the workplace – specifically elite schools such as the Ivy League. Having met many people in the Oxbridge world, I don’t think there are as many blacks proportional to their percentage of the population going to those schools. For example, I do know that many undergraduate colleges at Oxford took NO BLACK STUDENTS this year. That simply would not happen in the US, and the fact that there seems to be no problem with it in the UK says a lot.

    Regarding Osama bin Laden – for me his death changes nothing. It does not bring back my friend who was going down the steps with me and took a wrong turn, does not alleviate the mental anguish of my other friend who was eye level with the people jumping out of the windows, or make the towers magically reappear. The ‘eye for an eye’ group misses the point, in my mind. Now that he is dead are we free from the threat of another attack? Are we any safer? The answer, sadly, is no…

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