From the Editor

John Turner

As I watched the various programs on TV commemorating the events of five years ago, I heard almost no one speak of the attacks in a political context. It was as though these disasters came upon us out of an inexplicable void which could have been constructed only by Satan himself. And who can understand his motives?

The entire weekend was a vast confirmation of Kevin Drum's comment back on August 30th in the Washington Monthly: "Americans are clueless about how the rest of the world views us."

Why do you suppose that is?

Can it be that our manic impulse towards self-congratulation has finally blinded us completely? American braggadocio has been satirized in literature for a long time now. I think my favorite example is Charles Dickens's novel, Martin Chuzzlewit. But for the most part this criticism has been seen in a comical light -- dopey Chamber of Commerce types bloviating, and so forth. But now there's reason to suspect our puffing up has passed beyond comedy to become something darker.

In Sore Winners, John Powers remarked about the aftermath of September 11th: "One can imagine genuinely great leaders calling on America to display this ability, to both fight the proponents of Islamic fascism and examine ourselves to see what this country might have done to invite such attacks. Such a large-souled response might have eventually made the United States a greater nation."

That's not the kind of leaders we have. It's hard to imagine where courageous leaders might come from. Yet the more serious question is how we would respond to them if they did arise.

I hope we here at The Harvard Square Commentary -- both writers and readers -- can explore the issue of how the American people would greet expansive leadership, one which asked us to see ourselves in a worldwide context. There's nothing we need to understand more than that.

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Harvard Square Commentary, September 11, 2006