I have sat with it all week and I really can’t not say anything. I am embarrassed. Perhaps I have been for some time, but at the beginning of the week, it struck me that I was truly embarrassed to be an American. After the horrible killings in France, France came together. Its citizens, its leaders- they came together. And, not only that, they were joined by leaders of 40 other nations. The United States, however, was not among them. I know that there were Americans- visitors, expats- who were among the million or so who gathered in Paris on Sunday. Our ambassador to France was there. But our President was noticeably absent. Many have criticized the administration for not sending a high level representative, instead leaving it to our ambassador on the ground. Some have called for Eric Holder to have been there. He was, in fact, already in Paris. John Kerry, too, was mentioned but he was busy preparing for the President’s trip to India. But, I don’t think either of them should be criticized. I think that honor should be uniquely reserved for our President.
America is supposedly the leader of the free world. We are suppose to set the standard. And, we have. We set the standard the day the twin towers were attacked. We responded with militarism. We responded with our own kind of terror. Yes, terror. I was in graduate school when 9/11 happened. One of my professors came in that week and asked, “what is a terrorist?” There, were, of course a multitude of answers, but I will never forget the question, because it made us think about what constitutes terrorism. So much has happened since 2001 that the definition of terrorism/terrorist has taken on a common understanding linked to jihadists. Back then, though, it was still being discussed more broadly, and the United States response to the 9/11 crisis was, arguably, no better than those we disdain for terrorism. We could have chosen another way to respond and because we didn’t we have been mired in two wars for nearly 14 years.
We led the way, alright. We set the example and the example was that democracies should respond reactively, instead of with deliberation and thought, that democracies should initiate conflict, instead of resolving it, that democracies are as prone to violence as anyone else. What we reap we sow. The increase in Islamic terrorism is directly correlated with the US response 14 years ago. They hate us. So, I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise that the US made no showing at the Paris march. We continue to fail to do the right thing.
Our president could have re-arranged his schedule to be there, to walk arm in arm with Hollande, Merkel, and Cameron and the President of Mali. The President of Mali! He could have if he had the will. It would have set a different kind of example, that the United States stands with its allies for peace and inclusion. That the best way to combat hate isn’t with more hate, but with solidarity for the good of all. But, we didn’t and by not appearing, our President allowed our nation to say to the rest of the world “Sorry about what happened, but good luck to you.”
I am embarrassed by what we have done in the name of, let’s just say it, revenge for 9/11. It is embarrassing to contemplate what kind of world we have made by our militaristic responses. It is utterly embarrassing to me, as an American, to see the man who won the Nobel peace prize sit back and not prominently participate in this act of peace and solidarity that happened in Paris. It was the last straw. I am embarrassed to be an American.