I have never before been so confused over the death of one man.
Last night, as we all know by now, President Obama announced the death of the foremost mastermind of global terrorism that modern history has known. Celebrations and jubilation erupted across the nation as Americans were overcome with relief that our most hated enemy could no longer threaten our peace and security.
I was sitting at home showing my 16-year-old friend Emma To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar when I got an email. "Turn on the TV. Osama bin Laden is dead."
Naturally, we didn't finish our movie.
As we watched the news coverage and President Obama's address, our house was filled with mixed emotions. I am a war vet, and had Osama bin Laden not orchestrated his cowardly act of mass murder on the American people, I probably would not have gone to war. My best friend Erin, whom I live with, had to sit at home for eight months worrying and wondering if I would die overseas in a confusing and unclear conflict. Emma was overwhelmed-- the War on Terror has existed since she was very young, and for much of her life bin Laden has existed as a bogeyman and a symbol of violence and fear.
I asked her how she felt and she had one word. "Relieved."
How did I feel? Too many things to know or understand. I've had friends who have died in the conflict that ensued, and I felt a grim sort of vindication. Maybe their deaths weren't in vain? Maybe my service was not wasted?
Was it right to be so happy?
Post military service, I've become something of a pacifist. I don't believe that it is moral nor right to celebrate the death of any human being, and I was confused by my overwhelming feeling of happiness. It's a theme repeated across America, with politicians and pundits asking... "Is this cause for celebration?"
Making sense of an event like this is hard. Osama bin Laden, while human, was an exceptionally bad human. He changed the course of events in the world on a massive scale and definitely not for the better. He made the world a scarier place and now, having been buried at sea, cannot hurt anyone else ever again. The man is shark food, and while we should not cultivate a culture of revenge and vendetta, we have every right to be relieved and happy that the world became a slightly safer place.
America was drunk last night in its triumph, and while we for now we are congratulating ourselves, we must brace for the inevitable hang over that must follow. Will there be retaliation from the masses that adulated bin Laden and the organization that was driven by his evil scheme fueled by hatred? How will this change the political landscape in our own country and in the Middle East? We've lost our bogeyman and our most hated enemy, and the direction which has seemed so certain for the past decade must change. Our focus will shift, and no-one is certain to where.
Today is a bit too early for that, however. For now I'm content to be relieved and to feel closure in the deaths of my friends. I'm happy to have been given meaning in my service to my country and my actions in the Middle East. What a strange time our modern era is! That the death of one man can give meaning to so many confused and unhappy times. It is what it is, and, I, for one, am grateful to the men and women who have given their lives and their service to see that we can feel just a little better when we sleep at night.
Relief. What a feeling it is.
This post was cross posted to Hivster.