Osama Bin Laden is dead.
First, I am amused by the subtle-yet-obvious PR move that was the decision to report that Bin Laden is dead, not that “we” killed Bin Laden. We(henceforth, “we” will be used in reference to the vast majority of Americans as well as others opposed to the views and work of Bin Laden) are definitely treating this moment as a US victory, but our discomfort with death is getting in the way of taking full credit for it. We, the citizens, didn’t kill Osama as we, the Giants fans, won the World Series. Osama is dead, much as the drought has stopped or the flooding has subsided. I think it’s less disturbing to celebrate a death by suggesting that other powers brought it about than to admit that this is what we said we wanted all along. I’d like to say I am above or outside of this feeling, but I am not. I can be glad that Osama is dead, but I don’t know if I could have pulled the trigger.
I follow a comedian named Anthony Jeselnik on Twitter. His tweets are nearly always the kind that offend the overwhelming majority of the population. His stand-up is the same way. In listening to him and in generally exposing myself to a wider variety of comedy, I have grown to be able to appreciate the message and writing of a joke without worrying whether the subject matter is too controversial. At around 9:00 on Sunday evening, Jeselnik tweeted the following:
Osama Bin Laden is dead? FINALLY! We’re even!
It may be blunt, sarcastic, and, to many, still “too soon,” but it really puts the spotlight on the central issue of celebrating the killing of a terrorist leader: what, if anything, will even the score?
I believe that killing in revenge is useless. Sure, the pile of bodies grows a little, but nothing has been undone. That isn’t to suggest that revenge doesn’t make one feel a little better, but the damage they have done will never actually be reversed. I hope that the killing of Osama Bin Laden was less of a vengeful act and more of an effort to stop the future damage. Whether it was his explicit orders or simply the unity of feeling amongst his followers that was fueling the terrorism so, I hope that his death throws a spanner in the organization’s gears.
I’ll admit that my first reaction to the news that he had been killed was eerily similar to the reaction I remember having had on the morning of September 11, 2001: confusion. Back then, I was youthfully ignorant of the existence of the rest of the world and blissfully unaware that humans could harbor so much malice and hatred in their bodies as to destroy buildings full of faceless “enemies.” A few hours ago, I was once again confused, but this time I knew that there were bad people out there. I think I was just confused because I had no idea what this did. I’ve lived nearly half of my life in a country that spent a considerable amount of money chasing a man that was finally dead, so his absence just left me wondering what new goals would fill the “find Osama” hole that had been left.
I am not excited about Bin Laden’s death, but I am relieved.