Osama bin Laden is Dead

2 May

About three hours ago, the world was informed that Osama bin Laden, founder of Al Qaida and head honcho of 9/11 efforts, was killed by American special forces earlier today.

As I sat in my floor’s TV lounge with about a quarter of my floor mates, I listened to Brian Williams and his affiliates at NBC News, and eventually President Obama in his Presidential Address, talk about justice. “Today,” they said, “justice has been served.” And I asked myself: has it been served?

As we sat, speechless, listening to the released particulars surrounding today’s events, I heard whoops in the Quad. I saw pictures of people chanting, cheering, waving American flags outside of the White House. I saw about a bazillion Facebook statuses with some variation of ‘Ding, Dong, the witch is dead.’

Then there are the outliers. The people who aren’t happy he’s dead. The people who are instead holding onto how many lives “our side” has lost, rather than this (monumental) one we took. Was it worth it?, they ask. All of the debt– both economic and mortal– and all of the destruction? Was it worth it to know he’s dead?

And yet, my first thought (okay, let’s be honest. My second thought. My first thought was about what would be going on in Studio 60 right now, if it was still on the air, as one of the plot lines that overtook the last four episodes of the show centered around Tom Jeter’s brother, a soldier, who had been taken hostage in Afghanistan) persisted: was justice served?

On the one hand, it’s nice to think so. I would give a hell of a lot to be able to trek it down to Ground Zero right now with lots of people from my school and just be a part of a Moment. Right or wrong, this is a Moment. Where were you when 9/11 happened (sitting in my basement watching Peppermint Patty on TV, bouncing on my mom’s blue exercise ball), where were you when Obama was inaugurated (Ms. Roeser’s room with Allyson and Ryan/Ms. Folliard’s room with my French class), where were you when Osama bin Laden was killed (Sulz/Reid 3 TV lounge). Or maybe not. But right now, it seems like a Moment. He killed us, now we killed him. Fair is fair, don’t fuck with the US (bitch).

But on the other hand, why does this one death, of this one man, count for so much? Justice is defined as maintaining what is morally right and fair, but is an eye for an eye just? Do we want it to be just?

My gut instinct is not that of overwhelming happiness, but it is the uncommon stirring in me that I am part of something larger than this school, in this city, in this state. I am an American. It’s funny, because all semester in my sociology class I talked about how I most identified with a cultural identity when I was the only one — i.e. I feel most Jewish in a room full of Catholics — but today I feel so American because everyone else does. It’s like I’ve been subconsciously gunning for this to happen. Not this specifically, just… a sign that it isn’t all in vain.

Ultimately, I don’t think it’s just. Justice would be an explanation, an apology, a resurrection for all those who lost loved ones in the past ten years. Justice would be a time table to go back and tell everyone we love to stay far away from the Financial District, the Pentagon, and any and all airports that sunny September day. However, given the impossibility of these scenarios, does it suffice to know that bin Laden can never scheme again? I suppose so. As a token.

It seems that today there’s such a focus on being Right. Doing the Right thing. Thinking the Right thoughts. Having a moral compass consistently pointed North, and articulating your thoughts in a politically correct fashion. In that school of thought, bin Laden’s death should be met with the same response as would the death of any other political leader: a few seconds of sadness, followed by a change of subject. It’s not the same, though. Because we have put into Osama bin Laden everything we hate about terrorism, presumably because he was the unreachable. As long as bin Laden was still out there, we had a reason to keep fighting. To avenge our name.

But sometimes, I think it’s important to take a step back and just soak it in. One man’s death will never bring back the lives of all who have been lost in the War on Terror– 9/11, Iraq, Afghanistan, and everything associated–nor should we be celebrating the death of a person. But this is the Moment– the Moment where we have told all those who have lost loved ones that we have not forgotten them. The Moment where we remember. The Moment where we are united, not out of the joy of having killed someone, but out of the symbolic nature of what has happened. I’m not sure what it is, really, but I do know that it’s bigger than us. It’s bigger than two wars; it’s bigger than one trillion dollars and the Patriot Act. It will take months, years to determine to significance of this death. This one death, of this one man. But it will come. I am sure of that.

A friend of mine made an excellent point lamenting how we shouldn’t celebrate, as he was someone’s Commander in Chief, so to speak, but I feel I must refute: we cannot bear the grief of bin Laden’s supporters; we as a nation or a person cannot bear the hearts of the world on our shoulders. This is a Moment in America, in which we have accomplished something that will yet again shape the course of history on our terms.

And so, I am at a stand still. I am neither thrilled nor disgusted, nor excited nor empowered. I am consumed. I can feel the wind shifting, I can feel the earth turning. I still have another 800 words or so to write of my Opera paper, and I still have to go to two classes and then work tomorrow. And when the sun rises in about 5 hours or so, a new day will dawn and this will be but a Moment to be written about in the history books. There’s plenty of time to be Right tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that. But for now, I will absorb the Moment. I am proud to be an American.

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One Response to “Osama bin Laden is Dead”

  1. Lilla May 2, 2011 at 9:21 am #

    I am having the same thoughts, Jordana.

    But mostly commenting because of your Studio 60 reference. I mean..

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