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Osama bin Laden

By Billy | May 3, 2011

If I were better at drawing, I would post a comic here.  This is how it would go:

Frame 1:  A crowd of young adults stands outside the whitehouse.  They are drawn to be hyperbolic ‘college age hippies.’  Dreadlocks, tiedye shirts perhaps, at least one forearm tattoo displaying a cross or silhouette of a crucifix.  They are at a protest holding signs that say things like, “USA and Capitalism Value Oil Over Human Life!,” and “Bombing for Peace is like Fucking for Virginity,” and “Who Would Jesus Bomb?” and “There Are Thousands of Causes I’d Die For, but None I’d Kill For,”  and “US Government = Terrorists,” maybe someone sitting in the full lotus position on the ground in good view is sitting with a sign that says, “Honor the Dead, Heal the Wounded, End the War.”

Frame 2:  Someone runs to the middle of the crows with a handheld radio in hand.  They say, “Wait a minute, everyone!  Listen!”  The radio word bubble says, “…The United States has conducted an operation that has killed Osama Bin Laden, the leader of Al Queda, and a terrorist…”  Maybe a caricature of President Obama in the corner of the frame to show whose speaking on the radio.

Optional Frame 3: Everyone looks at eachother confused

Frame 4: Everyone pulls out their pens and markers and frantically scribbles new slogans on the back of their signs.  Big X’s scratch out their old sign’s words.

Frame 5:  Reuse Frame 1 with new signage.  Signs now read, “God Bless our Troops,” and “History in the Making in the Fight Against Hate,” and “Proud to Be an American,” and “Got Him!” and “Great Day for America,” and “Epic Win.”  Foam #1 hands are raised, maybe I would depict music and dancing and 5 jets starting to do a flyby or something.     I don’t know what to do with that guy sitting with the sign because he may be autobiographical.  And frankly, I don’t know what to do with myself.


I’ll start out with acknowleding that politics can’t possibly be simple or black/white, no matter how hard people might pretend that is the case.  I’ll also acknowledge my resentment of the critical culture we live in and my displeasure with the fact that everyone knows what isn’t a solution but nobody offers or contributes to what is a solution.  I acknowledge that writing a blog post is what every other frustrated extrovert does to contribute to the “solution” side of things, and I am not under the illusion that I am instigating or helping bring about change by vocalizing what I think.   I am writing because I am beside myself with hurt and sadness; I am writing because it’s what serves me at the moment.

The other thing I’ll clear up right away is that I am not even going to go into: What we should have done with/to Osama Bin Laden if we had the chance to take him without killing him, whether or not he has been alive for the last 10 years, whether I think he was behind 9/11 or not, or whether it’s ever reasonable to kill one person to spare others.    What’s done is done, and what’s known is known, and what’s knowable is knowable. What I mean to say is that our responses can be immature or mature regardless of what precisely they are responding to.  Maybe 9/11 was an inside job and Osama bin Laden has been dead for 10 years.  (Type that last sentence into google if you’re don’t understand why I could propose those things.)  I don’t really have an opinion about it.  It shouldn’t change the way you act.

What I am going into is bloodlust and vengeance.  I am talking about dancing in the street — dancing on the graves of our enemies.  I am talking about retributive justice and this idea that we can fix things with guns.  I am talking about “do I get my privacy back?  Will you stop looking at my junk now?”  I am talking about the unbelievable buzz I have heard burning holes in my ears from my friends and countrypeople.  Yes, another frustrated blog post floating in the ether.

Maybe you’re curious about my overarching views on violence.  Maybe.

At first I was happy.  I was content, at least, and the news of Osama bin Ladens murder did not change my mood too profoundly.  Then I saw a picture; a picture which happened to be photoshopped and quite obviously fake.  A photo of a different human who had been murdered; a photo of a different lifeline stopped prematurely.  Then I started thinking about the humanity involved in war.  I started really thinking about the human beings pulling the triggers, and the other humans paying those humans, and the humans who pay the humans to pay the humans to murder other humans.  That’s you and me.  Someplace in that chain.  Do I feel safer now?  No.  Do you?  I hope not.  If we were safer now, maybe TSA wouldn’t have to check our 5 year old brother’s junk.  Maybe if the world were safer now, we could pull out of a few of our endless wars.  Right?  No.  We’ll stay in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we’ll still get strip searched in the airport, and worst of all, we’ll forget the joy we felt while we danced in the streets of DC thinking about this supposed victory.

Bin Laden’s death can’t possibly be that big of a deal.  Because of this very simple dilemma:  If Osama bin Laden represented a force of nature worth reckoning with, (i.e. fear, insecurity, hunger, etc.), his bodily death would do nothing to extinguish what he stood for.  If his legacy cannot live past his life, then he wasn’t even worth the lead, or maybe he wasn’t worth the 10 years, thousands of lives, oil, bullets, explosives, capital spent on secrets, etc., etc..

Did Jesus’ murder end his legacy?  Did Socrates’s murder stop his corrupting the youth?  If the Chinese exterminate every Lama and Buddhist monk in Tibet, will Tibetan Buddhism die with them?  Has Hitler’s death marked the end of oppression and fear forever?  Nope.  These people are physical manifestations of things that extend way beyond them.  Things so deep you cannot shoot them, and you cannot nuke them.  Things so deep you can only find them with time — more time than you or I can ever hope to span.  Why do we even attack the symptoms?!  Your back hurts because you have bad posture, not because you haven’t been taking enough Advil.  People want to blow you up because they don’t see you as an all, not because you haven’t shot the right people.

Our country is drunk on the satiated bloodlust that she has lived in the throes of for a decade.  How many of us were young and impressionable when we saw the towers fall over and over and over and over again on the news?  How many of us thought at that time that it was as simple as Counter Strike made it seem?  It was playground rules.  If you threw rocks, you sat out, if you were bad enough, you got expelled.


I am saddened by my friends and collegues thinking we have “won” something, and I am hoping the hangover is not so severe.  I’ll dance in the streets when the last soldier comes home, thank you.  And until then, I’ll put my energy into celebrating victory over real struggles, with standing up for what you believe, dancing when nobody else can find joy, and being able to experience joy or comfort in a way that won’t make me uncomfortable a couple years down the line.  My life in this old place, Austria, has already taught me that America is just the teenager of the world, and right now she’s partying on spring break and all the cameras are on her.

Someone pointed to me that us not murdering bin Laden is for a good man to do nothing and allowing evil to triumph.  Somehow, I can’t shake the feeling that not decrying this celebration of war is for me to stand and do nothing, thus allowing evil to triumph.

Are you free because of his death?  Or are you free and he is dead?  I was free and joyful before he died, and I was proud to be an American, despite the attitude my country has about things like this.  I am tempted allow myself to feel less proud now, but I resist it.  What’s really terrifying is that we choose not to be joyful unless we have a tangible reason to.



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