President Obama speaks to us as adults. Not just in vocabulary and tone, but in subject matter and viewpoint. After eight years of listening to a middle-aged arrested adolescent treat us like toddlers who have to be sent out of the room before the grown-ups talk about serious stuff, we can hold our heads up again.
But on terrorism, Obama is still pretending there are monsters under the bed.
Obama has tried to lead America out of the shadows of the Bush years. He has projected a calm optimism, a reasoned determination, that is a breath of fresh air after the puerile, bullying bravado of George W. Bush and the dark, croaking counsel of his evil courtier Cheney. And he has said inspiring things about the importance of defending our laws, rights and traditions, even in the face of terrorist threats.
But because Obama has failed to directly reject the irrational boogeymen his predecessors whipped up, and because he has continued many of their policies, he has not been able to spring us from their dank culture of fear.
His real problem was his failure to forthrightly say that while terrorism remains a threat, its danger has been greatly overblown. Obama needed to tell Americans the truth, which is that no open society can ever be absolutely free from terrorist attacks, and that a society that allows its irrational fear of such attacks to cause it to jettison its laws, freedoms and most cherished traditions has already lost to the terrorists. He needed to say that while we will never forget 9/11, always honor the memory of its victims, and never let our guard down, we cannot allow one attack, no matter how horrific and spectacular, to determine the nature and future of our country. He needed to draw a line in the sand, and tell Americans that while he will do everything in his power to protect them, only fools dream of eternal, perfect safety. In short, he needed to seize the terrorism shibboleth root and branch and pull it out of the ground.
Because terrorism in our national imagination is simultaneously villain and nemesis, human and inhuman, the "war" against terrorism slips into becoming a war not just against fanatical jihadis but against our own death, against the very idea of death. As we accept this, repression of reality and the infantile fantasy of perfect safety -- in other words, cowardice -- become the driving forces of our lives.
This craven position dishonors a country whose troops fought at Valley Forge and Shiloh and Belleau Wood and Guadalcanal and Hue and Fallujah. It is not worthy of the mighty nation whose diverse people came together 60 years ago to help defeat the most dangerous tyrant in the history of humankind.
In 1933, when the nation was in the depths of the Great Depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered his first inaugural address. That towering president said, "This great nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself -- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."
FDR's words gave heart to Americans facing a crisis and a threat far worse than any posed by terrorists today. The country has a new president, and it wants a new direction. It is waiting for him to sound his trumpet.
Read the whole thing.
People always meet expectations. FDR expected Americans - isolationist and still struggling economically - to mobilize overnight, take on the most powerful military in the world and save civilization. And we did it.
Smirky/Darth expected Americans - inspired by 9/11 to make huge sacrifices to save the nation - to cower in fear, crying for Big Daddy to take care of them, to kill those skeery terrists by shredding the Constitution. And we did it.
Stop promising to keep us safe, Mr. President. Start demanding that we grow the fuck up.
Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic ....