At home, his personal story as the son of a mother from Kansas and a father from Kenya symbolized hopes of overcoming America’s racial divides. Might his personal story as an American-Christian descended from East African Muslims achieve a similar resonance abroad?
Now we have the answer, delivered by rocket launchers. No.
Again, this is not to blame Obama. He didn’t make the anti-Americanism, and he faces few easy answers in responding to that anti-Americanism. But it does suggest that greater humility might have been in order back in 2008-2009. And it suggests that the problems faced in the Muslim world today go way deeper than suggested by the glib answer, it’s all about Israel — or all about Bush. The anger goes back way further and lies way deeper. And it probably won’t be allayed by anything much that the United States or Israel or the larger Western world can do. It will be allayed by changes inside the Muslim world — changes that remove the incentives for local power-seekers to agitate mobs with stories about offenses against Islam; changes that reduce the receptiveness of ordinary people to the demagoguery of local power-seekers. Economic development, the advance of education, the rise of forms of Islam that are less political and more spiritual — these are the forces that will bring change. They’ll be slow. And they are bigger than any one man, no matter how unusual his life story; how eloquent his tongue; or how grand his self-image.