One Perspective: Globalizing democratic exceptionalism

By Tucker Slosburg

The Daily Record Newswire

With Osama bin Laden's death, we've come together as a country to remember and reflect about the atrocity that was 9/11.

For all of America's talk about civilized discourse after the Arizona shootings, one might find it baffling that it takes the death of Osama bin Laden to bring our country together.

After all, shouldn't it take more than a common enemy to unify a country?

One might think so, but our country relies on enemies. Despite what we say about pluralism within our own society, we use the enemy as a way to unify what America is and is not.

The disruption of our liberty and democracy forces Americans to realize the essential traits that define our country. In essence, the enemy helps define who we are by showing us what we are not, for better or for worse.

Our country came into existence only because we unified against England.

The North and South spent most of the 19th century demonizing each other over the meaning of liberty: the South interpreting states' rights, the abolitionists interpreting the rights of black men and women.

Our wars, however, have mostly been noble (to the extent that a war could be noble) in that they attempt to protect our liberty and democracy.

Still, our history is defined partly by who and why we fought.

During World War I, we depicted the Kaiser in Germany as a mad gorilla. During World War II, we gruesomely portrayed the Japanese with large buckteeth. All we had to do with Germany was say that riding alone was riding with Hitler because he was such a monster.

By the end of World War II we had entrenched ourselves in a Cold War with the Soviet Union that became hot in Korea and Vietnam.

In all of those wars, we portrayed our enemy as monstrous (some of them really were). Moreover, we focused on how our enemies' governing policies threatened our own liberty; that's often why we entered these wars.

Our moral basis for entering wars was not because Japan or Germany treated its own people horribly, but because they ultimately threatened our liberty.

As the Cold War progressed, it became clear isolation was no longer an option; as a new economic powerhouse, our responsibilities shifted.

Now America claims that a threat to liberty in any country is a threat to all liberty. Unfortunately, this policy finds itself wedded to economic interests as well, and that discussion should be shelved for another time.

Instead, we must focus on how Osama bin Laden's death affects our view of Al Qaeda and the preservation of liberty and how we unify ourselves as a country.

We no longer have a face of our enemy; Al Qaeda is a decentralized terrorist organization unlike our previous enemies: George III, Mussolini, Stalin and Hitler.

We understand that terrorists aim to disrupt our liberty, but without a face and without a leader, we enter uncharted territory.

Consider that in all other instances of war, America either won and leaders submitted, or the leader submitted and we won the war.

Now we've destroyed the leader but still face the war. Without a common target, how does one unify against an amorphous organization?

Because America has become a defender of liberty, not just at home but abroad as well, we must make an effort to learn more about the world.

That Americans, by and large, don't speak another language fluently (myself included) signifies our arrogance to the rest of the world.

How can we protect and promote liberty abroad if we remain in the dark about other cultures?

We might be an exceptional country and global powerhouse, but our daily interests remain isolated to our own interest.

To define America moving forward, we must believe in the greatness of other nations, not just our own.

For the safety of democracy, we must be more global in our daily view of the world. A unified belief that other countries can achieve greatness through democracy and freedom discourages the rise of terrorism.

If we believe in liberty, but refuse to encourage other countries into greatness, then we are helping encourage Al Qaeda to remove liberty.

You can reach Tucker at tslosburg@gmail.com or follow him on twitter @Tucker849.

Published: Mon, May 23, 2011

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