September 11 Digital Archive: XML Document

Story:The lessons Americans draw from September 11 come from answers to the question, What role does the United States play in the world?

On the one hand, the left identifies America as an empire posing as
historys first philanthropic superpower. In this view September 11 --though morally indefensible and grotesqueówas ""blowback"" from Americas imperialistic conduct.

On the other hand, both the centers "they dont understand us," and the rights "theyre evil -- were good" reactions flow from the America as Superman identity: a benevolent power cybernetically promoting democracy. Although both support the "The War on Terror" in the "pulling together for America" spirit, they nevertheless draw different lessons from September 11. The center concedes that ""Superman"" occasionally errs, permitting adversaries to misunderstand Americas bedrock benevolent intentions. To stem terrorism, the center would communicate the virtues of the American way to the ""disaffected populations"" of the world; when the disaffected appreciate the ""real"" America, theyll want to emulate --not annihilate- us.

In the rights version, Superman America is unconditionally righteous and
altruistic; it follows that terrorists are motivated by evil, not politics, thereby placing them outside of ethical regard. Naturally eliminating "The Evil One" is the solution.

In stark contrast to the center and the right, the left seeks a transcendence of American imperialism as the lasting solution to terrorism.

Most Americans find the lessons of the center and the right both soothing to their grief and patriotic, with the added benefit of no requirement for soul-searching about Americas conduct in the world. In opposition, by assuming that America bears some responsibility for September 11, the lefts blowback account rings for most Americans alien, perverse and profane, in short, unreal and cruel. But so was the choreographed attack that dispatched airliners as guided missiles into crowded buildings.

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