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The Day After Osama

The Day After Osama

My Osama bin Laden-free life appears no different than before. Except today I was a little more worried about coming into work. I live in NYC, my office is two blocks below Times Square, and I have to take the subway. The only bright side is that the city is on high alert today for exactly this reason. Safe / Unsafe balance remains wobbly.

It’s not lost on me that this announcement came exactly a year after the attempted Times Square bombing. I was in the area that day, too. I sometimes think about what could have happened to me. But you know what I think about more? How lucky I am not to live in places where the danger of being killed randomly is not just an intermittent fear, but a constant one. Living in this city has always been a risk, even if you put aside terrorism. It’s a choice I and millions of others made. You can’t say the same about many citizens in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Ivory Coast, Palestine, or the hundreds of other locations on this planet where it’s not safe to… exist.

I did not join in the celebrations last night even though I am here. I don’t think celebrating someone’s death is useful. I’m glad he’s dead. He reaped what he sowed. But I will not stand in the street chanting USA!USA!USA! because of it.

Then again, I completely understand the need to be in front of the White House, or at Ground Zero, or in Times Square to mark that moment. It was an important one.

Honestly? I fell asleep waiting for the president to come on TV and tell me what Twitter had already told me an hour before. (It didn’t help that every channel waiting for him to appear had the most boring people marking time in the most boring way imaginable.) I woke up in the middle of it, and found myself impressed by the way Obama carried himself. He’s good at hitting the right notes in speeches. And I’m really glad that he was able to be a part of bringing this about.

I was also glad that he pointed out that bin Laden not only killed white westerners, but many, many Muslims as well. We in America often try to do a little shuck and jive to bring the conversation back to our own pain, but we’re not the only ones who’ve suffered because of this man. It brings to mind the whole Ground Zero Non-Mosque issue, where protesters steadfastly ignored that Muslim men and women died in the Twin Towers as well. Nothing mattered to those assholes except their own pain and suffering, their own fake pain and suffering, or the political points they could score. Last night our president made it clear that bin Laden is a criminal responsible for a lot of death, not just the death people like that want to talk about. I’m proud of him for that.

The day after Osama is not a momentous day, though. Because his death isn’t going to magically restore our civil liberties, end our wars, end people dying because of his actions, or make terrorism go away. When all of that happens, then I will stand in the street and chant. I feel like I may never get that chance in my lifetime.

4 comments to The Day After Osama

  • So astute in your commentary.

    I feel the same kinda anti-climax in thinking about this. He was just a very small cog in a large machine and celebrating someone’s death in the manner shown on TV is not quite the image you want in the news. But like you I feel that commenting on the celebration is not my place since I didn’t lose anyone.

    I’ll be waiting for restoration of civil liberties (like you), not having to be at the airport 5 hours before my flight coz I know I’m always going to be “randomly” flagged, ending all the wars so those caskets with the flags drawn over them don’t haunt me in my dreams… those are some of the things I’ll be waiting for in order to don my party hat.

  • My personal favourite bit was when he made the distinction between being ‘at war with terrorists’ and ‘at war with Islam’. Far too many people, from what I read across the web, still automatically equate Muslim with Terrorist. It can’t really be stressed enough that the vast majority of the Muslim population just want to live their lives, just like everybody else.

  • Kit

    I totally agree with your comments here. The breaking news about Osama bin Laden last night did not make me feel happy, I didn’t want to go shout in the streets, but I was fascinated nonetheless. The entire time waiting for Obama to speak on the matter, I and a friend were querying each other back and forth — “what does this mean?” “what’s going to happen next?” or just a simple, “dude, oh snap!”

    It is symbolic that bin Laden is dead, especially since my entire adolescence was marked by 9/11, but I’m more concerned about the people who are angry about it that are going to want to take it out on us.

  • I agree with you. But if Osama was a bad man (and he was, I’m constructing a syllogism here) because he killed many Muslims, what does that make Obama? Or Bush? Or Clinton? They all killed many Muslims, and many other people besides. (Which is why I appreciate your remark about the difference between the risks of living in NYC and the risks of living in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Ivory Coast, etc.)

    I imagine you’ve seen Noam Chomsky’s remarks:

    “We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic. Uncontroversially, his crimes vastly exceed bin Laden’s, and he is not a “suspect” but uncontroversially the “decider” who gave the orders to commit the “supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole” (quoting the Nuremberg Tribunal) for which Nazi criminals were hanged: the hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of refugees, destruction of much of the country, the bitter sectarian conflict that has now spread to the rest of the region.”

    And I imagine you’ve seen our geek of a president’s little joke to the Jonas Brothers from last year’s Washington Correspondents’ Dinner:

    “Jonas brothers are here, they’re out there somewhere. Sasha and Malia are huge fans, but boys, don’t get any ideas. Two words for you: predator drones. You will never see it coming. You think I’m joking?”

    To my mind, that’s right down there with “Please … don’t kill me!” Lightsaber or not.