The terrorist attack of September 11, 2001 was a devastating collective trauma that inflicted a rip in the fabric of the American psyche. In horrifyingly demonstrating that America can be massively assaulted on its native soil, the attack of 9/11 shattered our collective illusions of safety, inviolability, and grandiose invincibility, illusions that had long been mainstays of the American historical identity. In the wake of such shattering, Americans became much more susceptible to destructive "resurrective ideologies" that promised to restore the grandiose illusions that had been lost.
Now, nearly 10 years later, Osama bin Laden has been killed. I am glad, as I suspect most Americans are, that a monstrous mass murderer has been brought to justice. But what is happening when jubilant crowds react to the killing by chanting and cheering "USA"? Are we not witnessing yet another effort to resurrect American invincibility? Are we not in danger of forgetting the terrible lesson we learned in consequence of the collective tragedy of 9/11 -- that we Americans are vulnerable human beings, just as vulnerable to assault, destruction, death, and loss as are all other people around the world? Such forgetfulness of the vulnerability of our existence has been rampant in other sectors of American life as well -- for example, in the obliviousness to the perils of nuclear power and global warming, driven into the foreground of our collective awareness by the nuclear crisis in Japan and the recent devastating storms in southern America.
We must not forget and fall, once again, into illusion. We must remember and begin to bring our common human vulnerabilities into dialogue with one another.