You had to feel just the slightest tinge of jealousy watching the members of the Canadian parliament give a lengthy standing ovation to Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers, the 58-year-old who killed a terrorist and defended democracy on Wednesday. Imagine if we in the United States still had the self-confidence to celebrate our heroes. Imagine if we could, even for just a moment, cheer for them–and each other. For who and what we are.
When President Barack Obama announced in May 2011 that Osama bin Laden had been killed, there were no such celebrations–at least among the country’s leaders.
But our politicians–even while taking political credit–would not celebrate America, lest someone take offense.
It took the speech of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Congress, three weeks later, to lead the first–and only–public celebration of what our heroes had accomplished in Abbottabad. “Congratulations, America. Congratulations, Mr. President. You got bin Laden. Good riddance.”
Congress seemed almost stunned. Was that allowed? And then–hell yes, it was. It was an overdue feel-good moment. Not repeated since.
Imagine if we had a president like that, conservatives told each other–one who could see the killing of a terrorist as an unequivocal moral good, who could make the case for his country’s interests on the world stage–and who understood America the way most Americans do.
It is cliché by now to observe that President Obama does not believe in American exceptionalism. He does, actually–but only that our exceptional success is an exceptional burden.
Netanyahu understands that American values are what make the United States unique, and worth fighting for–as does Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. In the absence of moral leadership from Washington, Harper has become the de facto leader of the free world, defending human rights, challenging tyranny, and calling the scourge of Islamic extremist exactly what it is. He does not lecture his nation. He channels Canada’s greatness.
We conservatives have observed wryly that even in gun-deprived Canada, it was “a good guy with a gun” that stopped the mass murderer who had already taken the life of Nathan Cirillo, the heroic Canadian soldier at the Tomb of the Unknown. Yet the more compelling irony is the fact that Canada–quasi-socialist, touchy-feely internationalist Canada–summoned more patriotism in 24 hours than we Americans have in the past six years.
We Americans want to be a part of it. So much so, in fact, that the Pittsburgh Penguins and their fans sang “O Canada” at a home game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday evening.
We used to do that with our own songs and symbols–we still do, when given the opportunity.
Yet we rarely are. Instead, our victories are turned into campaign riffs–“Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive”–before we’ve savored them.
Watch that video of the Sergeant-at-Arms again. Notice how the emotions well up–in the complete absence of words or tears, of which we’ve had far too many these past six years.
Our own Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the pilot who landed a full plane safely on the Hudson River in January 2009, also said little at the time. He let his fellow Americans speak for themselves.
Maybe our next president will understand. Let us spike the damned football.
Senior Editor-at-Large Joel B. Pollak edits Breitbart California and is the author of the new ebook, Wacko Birds: The Fall (and Rise) of the Tea Party, available for Amazon Kindle.
Follow Joel on Twitter: @joelpollak