Sunday night I was at a comedy show in Brooklyn when I heard the news that Osama bin Laden was dead, apparently killed in a cross between a Call of Duty video game and the final scene in Scarface. I just had no idea that the death of a terrorist was a reason to party. There is nothing I hate more than terrorists, whether they be KKK members, Islamic fundamentalists or my ex fiancee. But I can’t help but be a little uncomfortable with our boisterous celebration of death. If this were an isolated incident I would not sound so sanctimonious about it, but our culture has become one that is far too ready to celebrate violence.
Now don’t get me wrong – bin Laden was obviously a villain, though I sort of feel like I did at the end of the movie In The Line of Fire. John Malkovich was the villain and was killing nice people, like the chubby bank teller who “shouldn’t have been from Minneapolis.” And Clint Eastwood was the awesome hero that I rooted for, but at the end I realized I would not hear any more telephone calls from John Malkovich. I think having read so many brilliant books on Al Qaeda and bin Laden (The Looming Tower is my favorite book) I had a strong intellectual curiosity about the terror movement and its modern leader, but that said, his death feels like a deserved punishment. And any amount of comfort that it can provide the friends and families of the victims of 9/11 is welcome.
I suppose I just would have preferred a slightly more muted response to the news. Obama’s response was one of measured dignity and even the NY Post knew enough to just go with “We Got Him,” which is the NY Post equivalent of a lobotomized statement (I heard their first choice was “We finally fistfuc*ed that terrorist piece of sh*t!”). But there seemed to be a celebratory feel to the people taking to the streets (especially young folk who, based on lots of Tweets and Facebook updates I saw seemed just happy for an excuse to party in front of the White House and tweet about it) that felt slightly inappropriate. I am in no position to say what the response is, but if my parents were murdered and a jury delivered a guilty verdict (or the criminal were executed) appreciation and reflection would probably be my response before taking to the streets like the Yankees won the World Series.
But I think our country really just has a deeper respect and love of violence than other (civilized) nations. MMA is our fastest growing sport, we restrict bare breasts in movies more than open bullet wounds and we party when a murderer is executed. I just think it would be nice if our country could find a way to rally around something that doesn’t involve death. Universal health care? Incredibly divisive. Protecting our environment? Not a chance. Tighter gun laws to protect citizens? Not unless you want a bullet in your head.
So my advice for Obama is every time there is an important social issue that will effect Americans much more than killing a terrorist who was in his nursing home days, he should take a Republican into a steel cage and beat the sh*t out of them. Americans do not respect intellect, reason, nuance or long term benefits. They understand might and force. That is what we respect.
The feeling I had watching celebrations and chants of USA was not unlike the feeling I had at a Pittsburgh Steeler game and when I heard a Caucasian Steeler fan next to me refer to the Cleveland Brown’s Josh Cribbs as a nigger. I was still rooting for the Steelers, but I felt just a little uneasy about it for the rest of the game. That is sort of how I felt, to a lesser degree, watching celebrations on Sunday/Monday. This is a country where a quarter of the people question the birth of our president because he is African-American and millions slurred with him with the untrue (but not insidious on its own) claim that he was Muslim, but along with the immature twenty-something tweeters partying, these are the people now willing to give the President his respect (or at least some, because he killed a bad guy. I just don’t feel like partying to celebrate death, especially when many of the partygoers are people that would not want to party with the President if he was not killing someone named Osama.