Proud to Be an American

A long, long night is coming to an end. We are waking to a new day for the world. We are waking to a new day for America.

For the entire lifetimes of our young, terrorism -- gratuitous, faceless horror -- has been a close, unshakable shadow, the fear of monsters made all too real.

For the people of the United States, attacked, frustrated, enraged, despairing, lashing out at others and each other, no phrase has become more fraught than "Proud to be an American."

This day, thousands of miles from the country of my birth, I don't care how it sounds, how it may be misinterpreted, how it may be deconstructed or demeaned:

I am proud to be an American.

America looks different from a distance. Terrorism looks different from close up, from its home in the Middle East. Americans who live abroad can often feel conflicted, and with good reason, over how Washington does things. Faced with evil, Americans often take too long in understanding how to react. In reaction to evil, they are often accused, and with reason, of doing evil themselves. In the end, however, they get it right. Because at heart, they recognize evil for what it is. And because, in the end, there is no one else to get it done.

A long, long night is coming to an end. Here in Israel, it is Yom HaShoah, the annual memorial day for the victims of the Holocaust. Here in this household, it is a day of direct mourning, a day of grief for members of family killed by gratuitous, faceless, unreasoning horror.

But this Yom HaShoah is different. Americans, as they did once, long ago, have liberated a camp. As they did once, they have put an end to a man who befouled humankind, who ruined the lives of multitudes, who all but destroyed the light and the hope and the essential goodness in what we once called the American way.

This is not a celebration, a reveling in death. It is, however, an offering of thanks.

Terrorism has changed America as no other force. Terrorism has changed the world as no other force. Terrorism has changed and befouled democracy itself. Terrorism has changed us, all of us. It is evil metastasized. It is the worst of us. It rips societies apart, to not one beneficial end. It has no beneficial end. It is the worst that humanity has to offer. And its most successful proponent in history is now dead.

This is a transformative moment. It is a challenge to Americans to carry this step home, to begin to work together to heal the wounds which have deepened over these years into a new American way of life.

God bless this country America. God bless this country which, because it is made of humans, often has trouble figuring out what to do, how to fight the good fight. God bless this country which, in the end, does the right thing. God bless this country for which the world has no substitute.

In memory of Shalom Meir, Rosa, Sara, and Yisrael Stern-Spiegel and Yehoshua, Miryam, and David Dobjinsky-Sniatkewicz z"l.

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