But, in the autumn of 2005 Americans had come to believe not in being a light, but in packing heat. They believed in something they thought more dependable than traditions or gods—themselves.
The whole nation seemed to have become a giant O. J. Simpson jury, unable to imagine that its homeland boys could be doing anything but good. Pictures were exhibited on national television, clearly showing a U.S. marine gunning down a wounded prisoner. “This one's faking he's dead,” said the marine. Then, after a clatter of gunfire, “He's dead now.” A poll taken the next day revealed that the crowd back home was fully behind its troops—three out of four people thought the Iraqi had it coming.1
Americans believe themselves to be good people. How this special state of grace was accorded to them they do not know. How they might remain in such grace they do not ask. But they are sure they will get into heaven, even if they have to climb a pile of dead Iraqis to get there. Americans know they are good because their enemies are bad people. Can good people do bad things? Can bad people do good things? The questions are rarely raised and more rarely answered; one might as well ask a parrot to decline an irregular Latin verb. The few who take up the question at all quickly shut down their frontal lobes to avoid overheating and refer the matter back to more primitive parts of the brain for judgment.
On instinct and intuition alone the matter is resolved. This is a ...