Monday, May 2, 2011

Death of a Terrorist

Shouts of pride echoed long into the night. Hundreds of people ran out of their doors and crowded the city streets. Men and women draped American flags over their shoulders, singing the national anthem and chanting, "USA! USA! USA!" Headlines boasted, "We got him." "We win at last." "US nails the bastard." "Rot in hell." Broadcasters on every news outlet proclaimed it was "history in the making."

I watched news of Osama bin Laden's death explode through Facebook, through Twitter, through CNN and newspapers. Friends posted thoughts of civic pride, happiness, elation. Exclamation points abound. I started my car in the morning and was met with sounds of "America! Fuck Yeah!" - the famous national anthem from the satirical comedy Team America: World Police - on the local sports radio station. The magnitude of the news was overwhelming to just about everyone.

But that's why I write. In the midst of all this joy, this slobbery American love fest, this bubbling enthusiasm about witnessing history, I've never felt so unaffected by something in my life.

And when I say unaffected, that's precisely what I mean. Neutral. Indifferent. Sweden. Po-po-po-poker faced po-po-poker faced.

Don't get me wrong: I understand the importance of this news. Bin Laden was the spark that led our country to war. We wanted to find the man who not only orchestrated the biggest attack on American soil but was also the symbol for terrorism worldwide. He's been damned hard to find for nine years and his capture and death is considered a success for the military. I get that. His death could also strain foreign relations with particular countries and raise fears about the possibility of terrorist revenge. All of this is worth reporting, worth talking about, worth thinking about.

But compared to how I felt as a 13-year-old kid sitting in the middle-school cafeteria on Sept. 11, 2001, this doesn't fit. This news doesn't resonate on the same level as other momentous dates in American history, like Pearl Harbor or the JFK assassination. Maybe I'm ignorant to the significance - it wouldn't be the first time history and I have butted heads and gone our separate ways - but I just can't wrap my head around this nationwide fist-pumping for the death of a terrorist leader.

There are a lot of things that make me proud to be an American citizen. The freedoms to speak our minds and elect chosen leaders. The rights we are given at birth and the many organizations that fight to protect them. The fact that even in the face of intolerance, many people in our country accept and embrace new cultures. The ability to pursue a higher education and the people who are willing to help needy students afford it. The variety of opportunities available in this country, whether you want to fight fires, write a book, start a business, tend a garden, test video games, or even flip burgers at McDonald's. The fact that our country is a democracy and choice is the operative word makes me proud to live here.

There are plenty of ways to spin those things, compare America to other countries or take a turn to negative town, but that's not what I'm getting at. I just don't see a correlation between the news of bin Laden's death and the prideful reaction of the masses. It doesn't add up to me.

I'm not quite in the hippie crowd (How can you celebrate somebody's death, man?) because I understand the pride in winning a war and literally fighting for what's right. But I side more with the Gandhi crowd than any of the bleeding hearts beating their chests today, crowning America "Best Country In The World" all over again.

The news from last night is certainly part of American history; no doubt about that. But if the population wants to call it one of the country's defining moments and greatest successes, our priorities are fucked.