They cannot altogether contain themselves. The America-haters know that at a time like this, the vitriol they usually aim at the United States will not suit the national mood. And yet, it must truly gall them to remain quiet in the face of the most full-throated, unambivalent patriotism in 60 years.
This time, we did not choose a ribbon for our lapels to remember the victims. This time, we brought out our flag, the Stars and Stripes, because this time we need a symbol not just of sympathy, but of defiance.
And who could possibly fault the people of the United States -- grief-stricken, furious, fearful -- for this display of pride; this affirmation of our national spirit?
Most of the America-despising left has fallen silent since Sept. 11. But not all. Katha Pollitt, in The Nation magazine, writes: "My daughter, who goes to Stuyvesant High School only blocks from the World Trade Center, thinks we should fly an American flag out our window. Definitely not, I say: The flag stands for jingoism and vengeance and war. ... It seems impossible to explain to a 13-year-old, for whom the war in Vietnam might as well be the War of Jenkins's Ear, the connection between waving the flag and bombing ordinary people half a world away back to the proverbial Stone Age. I tell her she can buy a flag with her own money and fly it out her bedroom window, because that's hers, but the living room is off limits."
Susan Sontag, the much-admired "American woman of letters," as The New York Times has characterized her, once swooned for Ho Chi Minh. Now, in the New Yorker, she condemns "the unanimity of the sanctimonious, reality-concealing rhetoric spouted by American officials and media commentators." Like Pollitt, Sontag will fly no flag from her living room. "'Our country is strong,' we are told again and again," she writes. "I for one don't find this entirely consoling."
It would be a mistake to think that these writers are cranks. The anti-American impulse of the left has been a constant feature of our national life for at least 70 years. While bald expressions of America hatred are comparatively rare in the present climate, other manifestations of this attitude have crept to the surface in the last couple of weeks.
We have heard a great deal, for example, about how the United States is only reaping what it has sown. Didn't we help to "create" Osama Bin Laden, it is asked, when we armed the Afghan resistance during the war against the Soviet Union? Well, yes, we did help the Afghans. And perhaps we erred in not foreseeing the radicalism this would engender among many Muslims.
But has anyone mentioned the true culprit in causing Afghanistan's profound suffering? In all the reminders about our role in "creating" Osama Bin Laden, where is the condemnation of the Soviet Union for invading and wreaking havoc on that unfortunate country? If we are to be scolded for inadvertently creating a monster, what can you say of a nation that (SET ITAL) advertently (END ITAL) invaded and plundered?
We have also been denounced for our policies against the Muslim world. As the Weekly Standard noted in a recent issue, left-wing Brits have been a bit less inhibited than their American cousins. England's Guardian newspaper, for example, accuses America of "constantly waging war against much of humanity: impoverished people mostly."
Is declining to stand by and see Israel obliterated our sin? Many on the left think it is. As for our recent actions regarding the Muslim world, columnist Charles Krauthammer neatly sums up: The United States has sent soldiers into harm's way three times in the past decade: Kuwait, Bosnia and Kosovo. In each case, we went to the aid of Muslims.
America hatred is much more a feature of left wing than right wing thought. Still, some Americans on the right (Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson) could not resist the temptation to urge that this catastrophe was God's judgment on a sinful nation. That, too, amounts to sacrilege.
We have many faults. But one need look no further than the smoldering remains of lower Manhattan and the Pentagon to be reminded that our flaws are trifles compared with the ferocious evil that blights other parts of the globe.