As I’m sure you know by now, four American diplomats, including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, were killed yesterday in an attack on the consulate in Benghazi. Over a movie. A movie that had absolutely nothing to do with them or the State Department or the U.S. Government, but they happened to be the most convenient target for misplaced rage, and they died for it.
This morning I came into work. I read the news. I raced through my mental list of FSO friends; I didn’t know anyone in Libya yesterday, but many of my colleagues are not so lucky. It could have been my friends. It could have been me. I watched the footage of the consulate building in flames, and I felt sick. And then I went to the window and adjudicated visas, because that’s my job, and even for a tragedy like this the work doesn’t stop. All around the world FSOs did the exact same thing: they watched, they grieved, and they kept doing their part to represent our country abroad with dignity and honor, no matter what. This is what we signed up for.
When you join the foreign service they tell you that you are now the face of the United States of America, on duty or off, in the office or at home, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And we are expected to conduct ourselves in a manner that reflects well on our country. Well, guess what America. You are – all 314 million of you – the face of the United States of America. In this interconnected modern world you don’t even have to leave your house for a foreigner to meet you and judge you and your country by your words and deeds.
No one, especially not me, is going to argue that these killings were in any way justified, or that the individuals who perpetrated the attack do not bear ultimate responsibility for their actions. Nevertheless, those of us who are, knowingly, voluntarily, the most convenient targets would sleep a little better if some of our countrymen remembered that they are ambassadors too and conducted themselves as such. It’s hot enough out here already without our fellow Americans fanning the flames.