On the morning after Senator Obama’s election to the highest office in the land, I find myself thinking of the heavyweight boxer Carl “The Truth” Williams. Why is Carl Williams “The Truth?” How did it happen? Is he painfully honest? Does he bleed sodium pentothal?
Starting from my earliest memories, the United States has been “the Leader of the Free World.” It’s a moniker that is never challenged, and therefore never given much thought. Why we are the leader of the free world seems to be a rhetorical question.
For many, the title is a right of might. We got the guns.
For others, leadership is the reward of virtue. We’re the best because God likes us.
Too rarely lately has our position as leader been underscored by action.
Of course, we as a nation do not suffer from a lack of action. We are very quick to condemn, to enact, to deploy and to marshal. We’re more than happy to spread liberty, forcing it upon nations as if our own were not the result of very good luck. We preach the merit of free so long as free means “be like us.”
And being free like us could use some tweaks.
I’m not slamming the Nation. It is the greatest in the world. But because we’re the greatest, we do ourselves an injustice by failing to hold our definition of democracy to high standards. That bar was destined to rise the moment we declared that black people counted as only 3/5 of a person.
Since the creation of the Constitution, we’ve been greedy with free. We deny it with regularity: to Blacks. To women. To homosexuals. We do this, and then we say to the rest of the world, “Be free like us.”
Over the years, the Leader of the Free World has lost some of its luster. It’s not George’s fault. No, that lies on all our shoulders. The world looks up to us, and we took it for granted. And like an aging high school football hero, we’re hurt that nobody is buying us beer anymore.
We stopped scoring touchdowns. We’re still good looking. We’re still strong as a mule, and the letterman’s jacket still sort-of fits. But we’re not scoring touchdowns.
On November 4th, Americans elected to President a black man with a terrorist name. Race did not matter. Names did not matter.
Leadership mattered. And the rest of the world, at least for a little while, wants to be free like us.