By Randle Pink
This past Tuesday marked the one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama Bin Laden, the notorious leader of Al-Qaeda and the architect of the first direct assault on American soil since Pearl Harbor: the destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001. Other than through the vicarious consumption of bombastic criticisms levied upon the POTUS by the Right for daring to even mention bin Laden’s death as something his administration should be praised for, this supposedly ‘momentous’ occasion barely registered upon my own radar, as well as upon countless others across the nation. Never mind the fact that, if it was one of their boys in charge, they’d be singing his praises to the cheap seats, but I digress. It occurred to me upon reflection that the death of this horrible man had little effect upon me when it actually happened, as well. Granted, I was dealing with many of the things your average 99%-er deals with at the time of bin Laden’s death, and still am - unemployment, mounting debt, crippling depression, and so on - but beyond that, after 10 years without a second attack, a corrupt, unjust, two-fronted war in the Middle East, and witnessing my beloved nation sag under the weight of massive real estate collapse, auto industry and bank bailouts, and the relentless culture war being waged by the Right against anyone who isn’t white, Christian, and male, the events of September 11th seemed very far away, and bin Laden little more than a bogeyman designed to scare little children to myself and many others. I do recall, however, watching the nation rejoice as the news quickly spread of bin Laden’s death, and being appalled by the sheer bloodlust of the American people in their moment of ‘triumph’. The response by the youth of America struck me as particularly disturbing, as they flooded the streets, cheering and cajoling one another in sheer post-adolescent exuberance, chugging beer, popping champagne, whooping and cheering and reveling, with shouts of “We got him! We got bin Laden!” echoing far and wide across the nation. As a citizen of a country that claims to praise justice and fairness as paragonic virtues, my first instinct was to admonish these young upstarts for such deplorable behavior. But the machinations of my integratively complex mind were then forced to take pause, and think back upon why so many people might be so elated at the death of any human being, regardless of how terrible he might be. We are indeed a bloodthirsty nation, this is true. But I tend to believe it goes much deeper than that. The modern antithetical equivalent of the Moon landing, the destruction of the Twin Towers is one of the most powerfully significant events in our nation’s history. A direct attack not only on American soil but also on American hubris, our nation was shocked at the sheer audacity of such an apalling act. Not a single soul in America will soon forget that fateful day. You can ask just about anyone where they were when the towers fell, and they will be able to recall the events of that day for you with startling clarity. I’ll never forget waking up that morning, dialing in my favorite schlock-rock DJs, and being genuinely surprised at the hushed and somber tones eclipsing what was normally a humorous amd jovial radio show. At first, I thought it was a joke - Lamont and Tenelli are known for that sort of thing - but shortly thereafter, my roommate stepped into the hallway from her, her face white as a sheet, , “You have to come see this.” My ex-wife woke up moments later, and the three of us, as well as my roommate’s boyfriend at the time, huddled together in her bedroom and watched in transfixed, abject horror as the planes flew into the towers, over and over and over again. We shed many tears that morning, holding each other in mute consolation over something that, while it had no direct impact on our immediate lives, was nonetheless incredibly profound and ultimately terrifying. Our furtive glances at one another through hollow eyes betrayed the fact that we knew that our country was on the verge of something terrible, something nameless and nebulous and all the more frightening for that fact. Flash forward ten years, and to most of my generation, 9/11 is a tragic, yet distant memory. But the legacy of bin Laden’s reprehensible actions is still felt by each and every one of us, every single day; our nation is up to its eyes in debt, our civil liberties have been consistently compromised in the name of ‘freedom’ through deplorable Congressional legislation like The Patriot Act, and the combination of these actions and others like them has left the worst stain on America’s honor since the Vietnam War. So why were so many people so happy to see bin Laden dead? It’s not like killimg the man actually changed anything; we were(and still are) at war, we were (and still are) broke, and the grip on our personal freedoms has inexorably tightened since that day. What the hell was there to celebrate, especially among the young? So many of them had been sent to the Middle East to fight and die, and the ones that didn’t have come back with horrible physical and emotional scars. Bin Laden’s death changes none of that. In fact, it only served to me personally as a sordid reminder of just how far America’s integrity had sunk. As a child of eleven, I remember witnessing the long-awaited destruction of the Berlin Wall on television, signalling the end of the Cold War after nearly forty years. I can recall feeling a profound sense of relief as President Reagan came on the airwaves and told America that we had no more to fear from the Communist threat: after four decades, we were, at last, victorious. As I watched as the youth of America victoriously paraded the streets, it dawned upon me that to all those twenty-somethings, who grew up in an era that was almost the exact inverse of my own, 9/11 was the dawn of a new age of terror, not the close. I can only imagine what it must have been like for the millions of young people celebrating bin Laden’s death to watch endless replays of the 9/11 attack as young children, to grow up living with the fear of a second attack by a seemingly invisble, unstoppable foe, one who could melt into the shadows at will and strike anywhere, any time, with surgical precision. Despite our tremendous technological and military advancements, bin Laden seemed to be impossible to find, and even more impossible to kill. As a result of this terrible fact, his face was constantly plastered all over the airwaves, accompanied by countless news reports of Al-Qaeda activities related by newscasters in hushed and reverent tones, or shouted at a feverish pitch by angry, hysterical pundits. The constant coverage of Al-Qaeda’s activities completely usurped media time that would have been much better spent offering information regarding our illicit activities in Iraq and Afghanistan, but without a proper scapegoat, there is no way the Bush Administration could have conducted their terrible business in the Middle East at that time. So through gradual governmental co-opting of the media through networks lime Fox News amd MSNBC, bin Laden’s soulless visage remained a constant onscreen presence, a grim reminder to all that we must constantly look over our shoulder as we wait for the other shoe(re: bomb) to drop. And then, as suddenly as he seemingly appeared on oir nation’s consciousness, we vanquished our invincible foe: the Beast of Al-Qaeda was no more. It seems abundantly clear in hindsight that the Bush Administration had no real interest in taking bin Laden down, but it also seems equally clear that, given the current paradigm of paranoia and hysteria, President Obama realized that for the millions of children who grew up watching the terrible clash of irresistable force versus immovable object, the fearmongering and saber-rattling of the last decade must come to an end, so that closure might be acheived. Was killing bin Laden, as opposed to capturing him alive and bearing the full brunt of the American justice system upon him, the right decision? It’s hard to say. But was it a good decision, given the state of post-9/11 America? I think so. Bin Laden’s death served as a primary catalyst to ending the Iraq war, and has allowed the nation to move forward and focus upon much graver problems: rampant government corruption, personal security infringements, and crippling debt to name only a few. Without this act of closure, we would have no Occupy movement, and the status quo of domestic tyranny and oppression in these United States would still be preserved. While it may have only registered apathy or disgust among a great many liberal-minded individuals like myself at the time, it seems clear now, one year later, that the killing of Osama Bin Laden, while it might not have been what we wanted, was just what America needed.