I posted this as a note on Facebook already, but I figured it would make a sensible addition to my blog as well. In the wake of the death of Osama Bin Laden, many of my highly leftist peers at Macalester began expressing verbal disgust with what they deemed a “celebration of death.” A series of elitist status updates and arguments began floating around as the jubilee grew. Finally, after having the following link posted on my wall, I had to respond.
(”News of bin Laden’s death produced an outburst of jingoism and anti-Muslim bigotry in the U.S. The New York Daily News printed “Rot in hell!” across its front cover. In Portland, Maine, the words “Osama Today Islam tomorow (sic)” were found spray-painted on a mosque. As Obama was announcing…
A few things.
One, the New York Daily News is one step above the National Inquirer, I wouldn’t give anything they say credit by referencing it as if it represents anyone’s opinion. On top of that, it’s NYC, obviously their heated emotional response is a little bit understandable.
Next, I haven’t seen or heard of a single bit of xenophobia in any of the celebration in person or online. Most of what I’ve seen is positive and chanting “U-S-A” is hardly a negative response and definitely not a display of “callous arrogance that stokes bitter anger toward the U.S. around the world.” Yes, there are probably multiple isolated incidents of idiots saying terrible caustic things or belligerent 14-year olds who don’t understand the consequences of their inflammatory actions, but I haven’t seen any rational adult say something anti-Islamic during this event. Hell, a drunk St. Thomas kid gave me a hug on the walk back to my apartment that night, it was great. Let me tell you, this isn’t remotely close to how white people treated my family and I after 9/11, this country HAS matured.
My interpretation of this jubilee is not that it is a psychotic rejoice in bloodsport and death, but rather a celebration of a certain sense of closure and a milestone in a war most of the world has lost the taste for. Yes, Osama was much more a symbolic leader than a military commander since his escape into Pakistan. Yes, there are aspects of a Pyhrric victory here for the US. Yes, this death doesn’t bring back any lives nor does it justify the thousands of innocent people who had died as a result of this indefinite “War on Terror”. (Which Obama has avoided saying since taking office, obviously it doesn’t change the fact that he continues to execute it but it is good sentiment)
However, none of that matters in the context of May 1st’s events. That article Sarah, like many from the Socialist Worker, is filled such an intense level of hyperbole and hyper-leftist rhetoric that it chokes off any journalistic integrity it could have had in my eyes or the eyes of most reasonable people. This was about the American people and many victims around the world getting what they had been promised for nearly a decade: justice. Yes, you don’t think this man’s death is justice. Should we have given up the search? Found him and held his hand? What was the alternative? You may not believe in retributive justice but is as human as procreation and has been around for just as long. This IS a blow to our enemy’s morale and perhaps even their organization and this power vacuum may cause in-fighting and further division. Furthermore, of course we didn’t notify Pakistan, their government is more corrupt than an Alabama school board. It’s a known fact that factions of the ISI leak information and even outright work with anti-US militia forces and may have been complicit in hiding Osama from the start. This compound was less than 1000 yards from a Pakistani military base and fairly close to Islamabad. And acting as judge, jury, and executioner beyond our borders? Please spare me the idealistic self-righteous bullshit. This is a war and this man wasn’t going to be taken alive even if we had tried. I would have preferred him to have a trial, but I live in the real world and I know it would have torn this country apart to attempt to give that man due process.
Finally, I’d like to remind you that although no politician who can win in America is liberal enough for you, it’s not foolish to try to support those who are the closest. By disparaging this victory and insulting everyone who celebrated, you are giving valuable ammunition to demagogues like Beck, Limbaugh, Hannity and O’Reilly. We spent eight years trying to convince this country that liberals were patriotic too, that liberals were strong on national defense too, that liberals were not simply smug intellectual elitists looking down their noses at the foundation of this country. And, on arguably the biggest victory in our military history since entering these wars, we spouted anti-populist cynicism once more. This is why we can’t win elections like Reagan, Nixon and Eisenhower could. The last man the “liberals” had in this country who could win like the modern conservatives was FDR, and that’s because he had the people on his side. He appealed to the proletarian and all liberals can do today is look down at them with two-faced bigotry. It wasn’t the liberal elites and the country club republicans who were out celebrating that night, it was the majority of the people of the country. This was the poor, the middle class, the white, the black, the latino, the arab-american, the asian-american, and everyone else. They were all happy this happened. If they read that article? Would they EVER want to vote for a liberal again?
In the end, all of this overt and unnecessary problemitization of Osama’s death is doing nothing but hurting the left’s reputation and causing damage to our future ability to institute important social and economic change in this country by criticizing the vast majority of people for their rightful celebration of a triumphant moment in American and world history. Hardly anyone has interpreted this event as a celebration of violence and death, this was a war time incident, it inherently involved those things. This was about the greater emotions that permeated the soul of this nation that night when the President told us that justice has been done. Yes, there was some immature reaction on the part of a few people, but that doesn’t damn everyone. I would urge you to try and see things from the prospective of ordinary people and not just from a position of academic and intellectual privilege.