The Paw Print
On Sunday evening, an undeniable sense of relief washed over the majority of the nation as President Obama announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed in Pakistan.
That sense of relief is justified. Clearly, he was an evil man who celebrated violence against any and all whom he deemed to be “enemies,” and if we have learned anything in the near-decade since the September 11 attacks, it is that this world needs less religious zealotry, not more.
Unfortunately, somber relief of tension and fear was not the emotion that emerged in the aftermath of President Obama’s announcement late Sunday evening. Instead, the national press corps, aided by a passionate collection of citizens that grew quickly outside of the White House, insisted that uninhibited celebration was the appropriate response to the death of the most wanted terrorist in the world.
Through this course of action, we will see a victory for bin Laden than the one he achieved on 9/11. It is a victory that will last in the collective memory of the world far beyond memories of his passing.
For decades, we have held in contempt those who have actively celebrated death. When presented with footage of foreigners cheering and celebrating terrorist attacks against America, we have chosen to ignore their insistence that they are celebrating retaliation against those who have occupied their nation for years upon years and killed a countless number of citizens.
Instead, we have reacted with righteous disgust as they celebrated the death of our innocent citizens, in addition to more broadly celebrating death itself.
However, on Sunday night, we acted in the same manner as those we claim to despise. We celebrated bloodshed against those we see as “enemies” just as enthusiastically our “enemies” celebrate bloodshed against our own innocent citizens.
This is not to say that bin Laden was innocent, or that he was an enemy in title only. I am not one of the conspiracy theorists who claim that bin Laden had nothing to do with 9/11. Al Qaeda is a very real enemy to the Western world, and bin Laden was the leader and figurehead of that terrorist organization.
As a nation, the United States used to refrain from flaunting horrific pictures of our victims in the name of not ennobling their death. Now, we ogle images of Uday and Qusay Hussein’s corpses, have been regaled by the video of Saddam Hussein’s hanging, and engage in public euphoria over bin Laden’s death.
Our very public and very raucous celebration of bin Laden’s death is the embodiment of his greatest victory.
He has altered America’s psyche so greatly that instead of viewing violence as a regrettable-yet-necessary act, we now find orgasmic euphoria in the news of deadly bloodshed.
The Americans that cheered when hearing of bin Laden’s death are not on the same level as those who cheered after 9/11. If you believe, as I do, that what goes around comes around, then you have to believe that bin Laden was mass murderer who had his punishment coming to him. The 9/11 victims were innocent civilians whose deaths are an indescribable tragedy.
Additionally, this isn’t to say that we should feel nothing towards the news of bin Laden’s demise, or that the news of his death shouldn’t be regarded with some kind of positive feeling. Anyone who lost a loved one, friend, or neighbor in the 9/11 attacks now have some kind of resolution for the tragedy borne on that September morning, and we all now have some semblance of triumph in the war on terror.
However, the national reaction to the news should be reserved for more substantial developments. Like when we bring every last one of the military service members home from war.
When we ignore the sadness associated with death, even the death of an individual as despicable as Osama bin Laden, it’s a sign that we are at least becoming, if we already aren’t, exactly the type of people we’ve grown to despise as a part our national identity.
In my mind, this should be a quiet, somber occasion, one where we reflect on what this man took from us with terrorism and what he took from us nearly ten years later.
I’m not saying anyone is wrong in feeling joy over his death, but running around with the flag draped across your shoulder, or hanging out your car window screaming “USA! USA!” is not a dignified reaction. In fact, it’s pretty ugly.
Ten years and more than 8,000 deaths later, the celebration in honor of the death of the man who was the architect behind many of those deaths should be somewhat muted, and not an explosion of jingoism.
Whether you like it or not, we’re judged by not just how we handle our defeats, but how we handle our victories as well.
Osama bin Laden has helped drag us down into his sick and perverted nihilism by making us like too many other loud-mouthed, conflict-hungry societies in history.
Barbaric, simple, crude, crass, you can take your pick of the adjectives. The fact remains that if we’re going to claim moral and civil superiority, we need to act like it when presented with the opportunity.