The jubilant and festive crowds that gathered across America in homes, churches, bars, community centers, and in front of the White House to celebrate and rejoice over the death of Osama bin Laden, were hauntingly similar to the Ku Klux Klan's public and violent spectacles of blacks being lynched. Much like America's sick fascination over the hanging of Saddam Hussein, people happily wrapped themselves in American flags or had their half-clad bodies painted red, white and blue. They popped champagne bottles and cheered with glee at the news of bin Laden's assassination. Blaring horns filled the air while people chanted "Obama got Osama!" In front of the White House, a large crowd sang "God Bless America" and the "Star Spangled Banner." Others shouted "USA! USA!" and "We're Number One!" For those who still remembered bin Laden (some had already forgotten), words of revenge and closure dripped from their lips.
The Klan is one of the oldest hate groups in America. Its sole purpose was to terrorize blacks-and others-to prevent them from participating in political and social processes. Even though the Klan primarily operated in the South, consisting of thousands of secret societies, it had millions of adherents across America. So entrenched was the Klan's ideological hatred and its commitment to defend what it considered to be "racial purity" and an "exceptional culture," when Congress tried outlawing the Klan it had little impact. Millions of Americans remained indifferent or collaborated with the Klan. Each year hundreds of blacks were arrested and falsely accused. They were then lynched and burned. This symbolically communal and murderous act became the Invisible Empire's (Klan's) preferred method of instilling fear into blacks and of reminding them of their place in society and history. While the media offered rewards for "lynching bees," Americans reveled in such public displays of violent entertainment.
One cannot help but wonder if America's racist and violent heritage, along with its secret societies filled with hate and ideas of superiority and exceptionalism, are currently displayed through invisible ideologies and institutions. What makes them invisible are their unquestionable and absolute acceptance. America gained preeminence during a period of time in which Western Powers differentiated blacks from other peoples, almost constituting a different species. Secular sciences and religious organizations also classified humankind into superior and inferior races, including their mental abilities. While imperial and market economies promoted Social Darwinism and eugenics, where lesser races and people were doomed to extinction by natural selection, or could be actively exterminated in the interests of industrial progress, genetics was sometimes used to justify racism and supremacy. The American Empire (like the Klan) justified and celebrated its imperial atrocities-collectivized lynchings-by claiming it was keeping its civilization secure and its democracy pure.
Today these converging ideas are lived through American institutions being played out in the Middle East and South Central Asia. The extralegal practice of mob violence and lynching of bin Laden by U.S. Special Forces-which occurred on a elaborately organized public scaffold, and mainly because he did not maintain his status as an Arab Muslim in America's scheme of global domination and hegemony-was celebrated and applauded by tens of millions of Americans. Large audiences have also either been amused by, or collaborated with, preemptive wars, shock and awe campaigns, and lengthy military occupations. But such public and violent spectacles, ones that have lynched millions of peaceful Arabs and Muslims for challenging American hubris, has a price. When executive lynchings perpetuates myths and becomes celebratory, and when a civilization is relegated to mob rule and intimidates, degrades and dehumanizes the "Other," know that an inescapable and endless "reign of terror" has arrived.
A "reign of terror," that is, which is not very festive nor amusing.