erik lundegaard

Osama's Death Certificate

In June 1989 I was 26 years old, recently returned from a year in Taiwan, and driving around at night with some friends in an unfamiliar warehouse district north of downtown Minneapolis when the news came on the radio: Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Supreme Leader of Iran, was dead at the age of 86. We were a fairly liberal group in a very liberal city but a spontaneous cheer went up in that car. Khomeini had been a thorn in our country's side for 10 years, we'd been hearing about him for 10 years, and it was nice to know we wouldn't be hearing about him much anymore. A minute later we sobered up. It felt classless, cheering for death.

Last night Patricia and I had some friends over for Sunday Movie Night. We used to do this fairly often but got off course this winter; but some of our members, who've been through hellacious springs, needed it again, so we gathered in our living room for homemade pasta and wine and salad, to watch Martin Scorsese's “Goodfellas.” Afterwards, before going to bed, I checked my email and received one from Ward, the man who made the homemade pasta: 

FW: BREAKING NEWS: An AP source says Osama bin Laden is dead
See what we miss watching movies?

I immediately went to the New York Times site for confirmation, then Andrew Sullivan to read his thoughts, then Salon to read their headlines (which were already aftermath headlines; “And now what?” headlines). I looked up Abbottabad on Google maps. Finally I went to Facebook. “Oh right, Facebook,” I thought. I scrolled backwards to see who posted the news first. It was a friend from Delaware who referenced, obliquely, how happy Wolfie B. had made her with “those five words.” Two people had already posted this photo, which made me smile, since it encapsulated the seriousness of one side of our political debate versus the decided lack of seriousness on the other:

Obama's birth certificate, Osama's death certificate

Someone wrote “The world feels better tonight.” Another: “I wish I had some fireworks to set off,” to which her friend, our mutual friend, replied, “I just heard one go off in my neighborhood.” People were gathering at the White House, and in Times Square, to cheer. A local journalist admonished his readers: “I hope people (esp. liberals) don't overthink this. Bin Laden dead is a good thing.” A movie critic wrote, “If you're in Times Square in a Navy uniform tonight and don't kiss a nurse, you have no sense of history. And no game.”

There were also the usual status updates about weekend trips, Sunday concerts, and funny things the child said.

Despite the wine, I stayed sober. I didn't disagree with the local journalist—“Bin Laden dead is a good thing”—I just knew the world wasn't much of a changed thing. Bin Laden has been a thorn in our country's side for 10 years, and it was nice to know he was gone, but there will be others, because there are always others. I simply hope he was the worst of it. In this way, and perhaps only this way, Osama bin Laden and I were in accord. He wished to be the western world's greatest enemy for the 21st century, and I sincerely hope, when the century's history is written, he's gotten that wish.

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Posted at 08:46 AM on Mon. May 02, 2011 in category Personal Pieces, Politics  
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COMMENTS

Erik wrote:

I particularly recommend the video at the top of Andrew Sullivan's post. A grim, grim reminder.

Comment posted on Mon. May 02, 2011 at 08:56 AM

Erik wrote:

This made me smile this morning: the celebration at the US Naval Academy last night:
http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2011/05/i-believe-that-we-have-won.html

Comment posted on Mon. May 02, 2011 at 09:11 AM

joe day wrote:

I think Digby (once again) speaks for me on the big picture in all of this, although I'm in a more celebratory mood:

http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2011/05/ten-years-on.html

Comment posted on Mon. May 02, 2011 at 11:35 AM

joe day wrote:

Choice Digby quote:
“...the people who compared this to Hitler and proclaimed al Qaeda the greatest threat the world has ever known were a bunch of bedwetting panic artists who should never be listened to again --- clearly they have no grace under pressure and can't think clearly in an emergency. ”

Comment posted on Mon. May 02, 2011 at 11:36 AM

Mister B wrote:

Personally, I'm just hoping I don't find myself looking back on the time when Osama bin Laden was alive as the “good old days” — and I don't believe that a single person who celebrated bin Laden's death Sunday night can guarantee that I won't/couldn't be wistful in the future.

And that's one of the reasons why I didn't celebrate. It wasn't like killing someone in the past and having the timeline changed ahead of the event.

How many al-Qaeda #2s have been killed since 9/11? It's been like watching Spinal Tap go through drummers. Has the terror-alert level been lowered from yellow or orange (or however the “How scared should we be of brown-skinned people?” chart is laid out) since Sunday?

Really, Osama was yet another Muslim fundamentalist killed whose death will more than likely inspire more Muslim fundamentalists to try to take his place.

This wasn't anything like Gordie (WIl Wheaton) pointing a gun at Ace (Kiefer Sutherland) in “Stand By Me”, resulting in all of the bad guys turning around and going home — as much as the peace-loving people in this country wish it were.

If/when our troops come home from Iraq, Afghanistan — and many other countries who are actually our allies...

If/when the TSA doesn't handle my “junk” more roughly than it handles my junk — and doesn't stop me from bringing fingernail clippers onto a plane...

If/when FOX News stops mixing up Osama's name with Obama's name...

If/when America and other nations stop making it possible for Muslim fundamentalists to earn enough money to attempt terrorist attacks anywhere in the world by continuing to buy oil from countries where they live...

...then maybe I'll celebrate.

In the meantime, I'm not going to hold my breath.

Comment posted on Sat. May 07, 2011 at 07:55 PM

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