I learned of Osama bin Laden’s death as I was watching The Killing last night, which is as apropos of nothing as the fact that I was sleeping when the first plane hit the first tower.
Will I remember these small details at the end?
For the next hour, CNN repeated what little information they knew. The only changing story in the lead-up to the President’s non-speech was the crowd gathering outside of the White House. First chanting U-S-A, then chant-singing The Star Spangled Banner, then playfully batting around a beach ball. I remember thinking: there should be more catharsis in this moment.
But there wasn’t. There’s no joy to be had in the death of somebody — at least not when the death doesn’t mark the end of anything. Much like watching the slow fade of a murderer, ebbing away with a lethal injection of sodium pentathol, there is no release today for those left grieving. Osama’s death brought no finality to this play; the idiot continues telling his tale, full of sound and fury.
The TSA still exists. The Department of Homeland Security still exists. Wars still rage on in Afghanistan and Iraq and Libya. The list goes on.
Megan McArdle captures it better than I can:
Don’t get me wrong: I do not think killing Bin Laden was morally or even tactically wrong. I just think it’s profoundly unsatisfying. We won’t recover any of the things that he took from us, or even the things we took from ourselves, like the ability to travel around the country without being treated like a potential terrorist. Destroying Osama did not unmake him, which is what I really wanted. He may be dead, but we’re still living with him.
Which is what makes today such a profoundly strange thing to have been a part of. Facebook was ablaze with fiery rhetoric: my college roommate, my friend’s mom, my uncle, an old childhood friend all somehow found their moment of cathartic relief in today, and I’ll admit that I’m jealous. Were they all truly overjoyed today? Or are we collectively pretending this this is enough?
No. There is no catharsis in this day, in this event. The world has shed itself of a monstrous person, but there is no gleeful, gritty joy in this moment. Just an emptiness in reflection of all we’ve lost, and a hollow chanting of U-S-A to drive the point home.