Kai Wright: The ability to kill Osama Bin Laden does not make America great

The last two days of media blitz about the Bin Laden assassination have been really difficult to watch. Regardless of the role of Bin Laden in horrific incidents like 9/11, I have not been able to rejoice in his death. I did not feel proud to be an American yesterday.

Kai Wright at Colorlines summed up my feelings about the incident, and Obama’s speech, better than anyone else I read yesterday.

“Today’s achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people,” the president declared. “We are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to,” he concluded, after insisting that the execution represents justice. “That is the story of our history, whether it’s the pursuit of prosperity for our people, or the struggle for equality for all our citizens; our commitment to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place.”

How perverse. President Obama is the leader of a nation in which justice is but a distant dream for millions of residents. He leads a nation that can afford billions of dollars annually for war but cannot feed the nearly 18 million children who lived in homes without food security in 2009. And yet, the Nobel Peace Prize winner can fix his mouth to say that killing a man on the other side of the globe provides proof of America’s exceptionalism.

The gap between rhetoric and reality has long been a defining trait of American life. Lies about our values have shielded us from the brutal facts of our nation ever since we built it on the back of genocide and slavery. But it is in times like these that the dissonance becomes unbearable.

The president says we can do anything we want because we can kill. We could not stop poverty rates from spiraling upward to a record-setting 14.3 percent of Americans in 2009, but we can kill so we are exceptional. One in four black and Latino families live below the poverty line now, and as a result America’s child poverty rate—one in five kids—is the second worst among rich nations, behind Mexico. But we can kill, so we are great.

Read the whole thing here.

Join the Conversation

  • http://feministing.com/members/thefword/ Morgan
    • http://feministing.com/members/miriam/ Miriam

      Awesome! FYI Kai is male and uses he/him pronouns. :)

      • http://feministing.com/members/thefword/ Morgan

        haha woops just realized that! silly gender.

  • http://feministing.com/members/avocado20/ Andrea

    I don’t agree with everything Wright writes, but it does get to something that I was feeling on Sunday night. My future-Marine partner was not very tolerant of my distaste with the celebrations. The man wasn’t an ethical man to say the least of all things, but the reaction of our populous and our president’s words don’t sit well with me, either.

  • http://feministing.com/members/isiswings/ J.A.

    One of the disturbing things about the conversations post-OBL death is the conflation of anger/hatred/shooting with sex and masculinity. There were several jokes around the web and on Twitter about how Obama and his wife must have had amazing sex after the killing. On the Daily Show, Jon Stewart showed an image of the US map in the hours after Obama’s death with southern Florida rising eastward into the Atlantic Ocean like a a landform phallus and a set of balls dropping from the FL panhandle and southern AL. The equation of killing=sex/male genitals makes me queasy. This equation is often implied in pop culture, but seeing it so openly spelled out in the news is something new.

  • anyadnight

    I am so happy that OBL is dead. I think this is a big victory for Obama, America, our troops and anyone caught in the cross-fire. This is a good reason to bring Americans home. We finally got him. The people who wanted stay until we achieved something can shutup and all the people who wanted us out can say, “Hey, we got Osama, let’s GO.” There’s one less reason to stay.