I was going to write about music tonight — to finally post a review on March Music Madness. Here’s what happened instead:
1. I was derailed when D. taught me & a friend how to play a drinking game called “Caps.” After two beers, a glass of wine, and one/three shots of vodka (unknown, really), I decided to plan a DANCE PARTY.
2. I went to my computer and started planning said dance party, only to get sidetracked by a friend’s Facebook status referring briefly to Osama bin Laden’s death. I thought, “WHAT.” Immediate cut to Google News — official shock at the top headline.
3. “OSAMA BIN LADEN IS DEAD. HE’S DEAD.”
4. Drunken news. What should we watch? What’s FOX News’ take?! What was this speech everyone was talking about? Apparently we were too busy with our vodka shots & drinking games at 4pm on a Sunday (honestly, and I worry about being an adult).
5. D. and I plug in his laptop, Youtube the Obama speech. He’s been following him since last August? He just died today?
6. Facebook argument/discussion ensues.
And here I thought I would write about music today, or plan a dance party. Still reeling from being several drinks under and parsing big-time news, bigger than when they found Saddam on my birthday and we sat and watched images of them combing through his beard and looking in his mouth over and over. The more interesting thing will be over the next seven or so days, as we watch Pakistan and Afghanistan and Everyone Else react. It won’t be all happy-happy, that’s clear enough. Right now, for these precious few hours, it’s Egypt-after-Mubarak, dancing-in-the-streets, waving-the-flag. Being glad some waste-of-life who lived to kill is no longer living. The notion of celebrating death could be disturbing (what if we had some actual connection, à la Deliverance?) but it’s masked in a sort of universal grin & relief. We win, symbolically, for the next five solid days. Go us.
It is certainly odd. I’m hardly the flag-waver, but I’ve never felt more generally good about a death before. It could be the vodka, or the kill-or-be-killed thesis of the weekend, but I can no longer mourn Osama’s death than Hitler’s. Granted, he was most importantly a symbol to us, but a leader to his followers. He will be replaced in a news cycle and the next big bearded bloke will take the lead and come under our crosshairs. He will no longer be the craftsman of the biggest terrorist attack on US soil, but he will be no less revered by those who believe in his cause. Maybe this will help to show us that this isn’t a superhero story, and there isn’t one supervillain.
But now is the sublime chaos when the enemy, as well as it can be determined, goes leaderless. When we dance in streets before the dust settles and someone else is enthroned, because we made the chaos happen; and a craftsman of death has joined his targets and ended the game for himself, to our relief; and we can broaden or tighten or redefine the hunt.
The symbol of a national tragedy, beaten over our heads over and over, is brought down. Whoever comes next will not incur the ire of his predecessor. I can’t help but believe this is for the good. Maybe we can leave the past behind, and begin to consider the present. Maybe we will now broaden our efforts and go after Somalia and Yemen, something I witnessed uncomfortably pushed in DC event after event (i.e. “It’s not the war in Afghanistan; it’s the war on Al Qaeda, now let’s expand outward…”)
It’s hard to know what we’ll do. It’s hard to stay focused. Who would have thought Libya would still be fighting on, two months later? Who would have expected to forget about it despite that?
I do feel lighter with this death. How can you not? Some part of me wants to picture the world cleaner and friendlier and calmer, although that isn’t true. It’s too hard to forgo the symbolic significance; we throw the Christmas out with the Santa, the Easter out with the bunny, al Qaeda’s potency out with its ultimate leader.
We’ll learn in a week. We learned that Libya was more than taking Benghazi and throwing our hat in the ring. We learn every day, and temper our enthusiasm with slightly depressed realism.
But can you really counter the human need to dance in the street?