We had a fun couple weeks there, congratulating ourselves for Barack Obama's historic, Liberals Save America presidential win, accepting other countries' "we're so proud of you" head nods and whatnot. It seemed like the country was back on track for a second, ready to head out into the world beloved for our bold and inspirational choice. Except, um, as it turns out, it doesn't really matter what the World thinks of us. A small, active faction of folks still hate us intensely and it doesn't matter that European people like US tourists again. Things like the current Mumbai crisis still wretchedly play out on big stages the belie their small, insidious roots.
For a brief second, yes! America was off the shit list, according to random white Europeans polled. (Actual line from that article: "I think this moment has the potential to do for the U.S. what the Olympics did for China: show the world we've changed." Um.) We could stop pretending we were Canadian! It was so great. And then a series of coordinated, supposedly Westerner-targeted attacks on Mumbai, India's financial district came rushing into the news. A hotel and a Jewish center were seized by "Mujahideen" (though no group, Muslim or not, has been declared the perpetrator). Those hideous, all-too-familiar images of bombs and guns and smoke were suddenly back in our faces (I mean, they'd always been there, every day for seven plus years, but now we're forced to look again).
Overall, the death toll could top 200. Among the casualties are, yes, people just like us: A young rabbi from New York was killed with his equally young wife, leaving an orphaned 18-month-year-old. A 13-year-old American girl was killed with her father. People having scrambling through the devastation of hotels and train stations the whole time, trying to find any Americans who may have been injured or worse in the attacks. We learned that some 200 tourists, singled out for having American or British passports, were being held hostage. And suddenly the caution we threw to the rumpy thumpy street party wind late on November 4th seemed to come flying back at us, taunting us with a small, ugly reminder:
It was never the World, and it was never Bush. It was something smaller and more shadowy that despised (read: violently disagreed with) us, and it was a system, a large collection of policies that enraged, not one simpish big-eared man. He stood as powerful avatar for that Big Problem, yes, but removing the spokesman does not end the scandal. (Just ask Scott McClellan.) We've bloody miles to go, we fear. And while it's still OK—don't worry!—to be soul squishingly happy about Obama, let's not forget that it's only a small seed of beginning. There are still plenty of needles in the Hope stack.