I'm going out on a limb and say I know what Michelle Obama really meant when she said she has never been really proud of her country until now.
It has to do with identification--something movie directors, I'm sure advertisers, all creative people are always trying to tweak. Do you identify with John Wayne or the Indians? The police or the suspect? The criminal or the victim? It's one reason racial profiling is a pisspoor anti-crime technique. By profiling blacks in urban areas, police cause blacks to identify politically with criminals who happen to be black and who prey on black neighborhoods. This gives the criminals more political power than they could ever get on their own. Because of racial profiling, law-abiding blacks sometimes resist tough 'law and order' policies and candidates.
I understand why some blacks identify with overseas victims of military power--the Palestinians, the Lebanese, former colonies, Saddam Hussein. We feel we've been victimized by brute force here in America. I was at an air show out on Coney Island - six F-14 fighter jets doing stunts. A white fellow standing next to me couldn't contain his pride at the demonstration of power. "We're powerful!" he said to me. I didn't feel what he felt. I felt those F-14's could be used to conquer someone who looked like me in another country -- even though I knew an earlier version of those F-14s prevented Hitler from conquering and enslaving my father right here in the U.S.
Like Michelle Obama, I don't identify with America's military might. But unlike Michelle Obama, I've always been proud of my country because I identify with the Constitution. I'm proud of our Constitution. The way I see it, the Founders believed minorities had a vital role to play in keeping this country on the path to power and greatness. Minorities are the D.E.W. line* of domestic trouble, internal political illness that can bring a nation down. The Soviets didn't listen to Solzhenitsyn, look what it got them. But America did listen--at least a little--to Frederick Douglass, Dr. King, even Malcom X, as they diagnosed the early warning signs that historically caused empires to fall. The Founders knew if the minorities are yelling, something is wrong with the country that needs to be fixed before it falls apart. That's why they gave us the right to yell, to call the President an asshole, an idiot, a coward, a traitor, a thief, a clown. America's minorities tell her when she's at risk for self-destruction. That's why we're still a superpower -- because we haven't broken into twenty pieces and we haven't self-destructed.
Michelle Obama is not proud of American power. I don't think she wants America to be the most powerful nation. I believe we should be the most powerful. We did terrible things in Viet Nam/Iraq--but we're not more evil than any other country. We just have more power. If we lose power, others gain power, and they will do worse things with that power than we do. America used to lynch blacks, she doesn't do that anymore. In Iran, in the 21st century, the government hangs gay teenagers. We think Rodney King beating is terrible, but we don't have Tianamen Massacres. China and Iran are much older nations -- in comparison, America is evolving at warp speed. We're evolving faster because of our Constitution.
Mrs. Obama has the right to feel as she does. But we can't have a President who doesn't believe America should be the most powerful country. So what about Mr. Obama, what does he believe?
*Distant Early Warning Line