As you might have heard, Osama bin Laden is dead.
Like many, I waited (and waited…and waited) for President Obama to make the annoucement last night. I joked that I spent most of my time avoiding tourists, drunk Caps fans, and GW students, so I’d pass on joining in the celebrations. After Obama’s speech, several people I know (and nearly every professional and amateur photographer in the city) went down to the White House to join the crowds in Lafeyette Park.
I did not.
Osama bin Laden was a mass murderer. He was responsible for a horrific attack that hit very close to home for me (literally and figuratively) and for thousands, if not millions of other Americans, to say nothing of the other brutal attacks all over the world. He took one of the world’s oldest and most peaceful religons and twisted it into a perverted doctrine that only a dedicated few recognized.
I understand the happiness, the sense of closure, the vindication, the feeling that “we finally got the bastard.” And while I do not support state sanctioned executions, I also will not grieve for bin Laden. Maybe I’ve watched Black Hawk Down a few too many times, but I find the images of people celebrating death in the streets unseemly and deeply unsettling. Perhaps if our country hadn’t lost its collective mind in the intervening decade, I’d be willing to cut us some slack. But between the abuses we’ve heaped upon ourselves and others and the casual racism at home, I can’t help but second guess. We just came from a week where the duly elected president of the United States had to show his papers to “prove”…to be honest, I’m not sure what that was supposed to prove.
That we managed to kill him a decade after the September 11 attacks is symbolically important, but hardly seems worth the celebrations we saw across the country last night. There was something unsettling about watching giddy crowds bounce around beach balls and climb telephone polls last night, as if they were in the lawn seats at a rock festival. Solemn and somber appreciation that an evil man is gone seemed like the more appropriate reaction.
On a lighter note, am I alone in being astounded at the number of people that tweeted or otherwise noted that Mark Twain quote? I’m 99% sure half of those people in my Twitter timeline don’t have a clue who he is.
We will now return to your regularly scheduled food programming.