So I have some breaking news:
Osama Bin Laden is dead.
I figured some of you may not have heard. But it's true he's dead. Killed in Pakistan and buried at sea, with a proper Muslim funeral.
I logged onto CNN.com saw a little banner saying:"Breaking News: President Obama will address the country on a matter of National Security." I wasn't sure what happened but I knew it was big. After a while it became clear that Osama had been killed in a mission authorized by the president.
Yes, Obama killed Osama.
As the news was coming out, reporters were saying things like: "There is a feeling of jubilation in the White House." I remember thinking, Really? Jubilation? The jubilation spilled over into the streets of DC and NYC, as well as the Daily Show, and my email inbox. In fact, America decided to throw itself a party to celebrate the killing of Osama. My first reaction was surprise. My second one was disgust. I was not sure why, even if you hated Osama, why his death would be a cause for celebration. For some reason I figured the whole thing would be more somber. Sort of like a dress in black affair, where we remember the people who died in the towers on 9/11.
Now that I've had a few days to digest everything I've concluded that the common reaction of jubilation was appropriate. Not because I think it is a rational or even sane response, rather I think the reaction fits within context of a "blood thirsty" country. Politicians make a living insisting that they will kill people, by supporting the death penalty or by displaying overwhelming support of military force. The United States is one of the few "developed" countries that still uses the death penalty. We've spent the better part of the decade fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Our favorite sport, football, is a sport where men sacrifice their bodies in a gladiator style ritual that can result in a unique brain disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy. (See Dave Duerson) And within this context of acceptable violence, it makes perfect sense that we chose to accept the notion that it is appropriate to celebrate the death of another human being.
I imagine if we changed our reactions we would be forced to examine other realities within our societal consciousness. The justification for killing Osama was that he was a mass murderer that needed to be brought to justice. And by celebrating his death we can stop there. Instead of asking about the hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have to see those deaths as acceptable losses. If not, we have to ask what makes killing thousands upon thousands of innocent Iraqi's morally justified? The fact that Osama masterminded the 9/11 attacks? We've essentially created a narrative that says a justified killing is one that is carried out by our nation and an unjustified one is one carried against us.
There is a problem with that logic. (Actually there are several but I'm choosing to focus one one.) We have an assumption that the power structure that orders the bombings that blow up babies in Iraq is only violent over there. I would argue that the "blood thirsty" nature of our power structure allows the devastation of our own people right here in the USA. It’s the reason that companies like Exxon Mobil paid absolutely no income taxes in 2009, while our political leaders debate whether or not to cut funding from Grandma's health or your sisters birth control. In fact it's the same arrogance that led to the financial meltdown, allowing millions of Americans to lose their job while privileged suits collected millions of dollars in bonuses. I'm not in anyway implying that it would be OK to support violence abroad if it weren't directed to us at home as well. I'm making the point that a nation that is violent abroad, will inevitably be violent at home.
The truth is that we are expendable and invisible just like Iraqi civilians. And who wants to be expendable or invisible? So it's easier to believe a lie. It's less complicated to believe that our country is on a quest for justice to defend our honor and democracy from the "evildoers" that want to take it away. Because if we don't accept the lie and analyze the truth we might have to do something about our predicament. We might see that our silence has been bought by HD TV, Nintendo Wii and Mickey Dees. We might see that we have these toys and treats because we are really glorified pawns. And that would be a total bummer.
...it's fun to be a glorified pawn. So party on!