Supposedly Mark Twain once said, “I’d never wish a man dead. But I’ve read some obituaries with great pleasure.”
That’s pretty much how I feel right now about the death of Osama Bin Laden. I normally don’t believe that two wrongs make a right, or that revenge is productive. That he is no longer living certainly does not bring back the people who died because of him, doesn’t undo the pain that so many have endured,the lives lost my troops overseas,or the decade of fear and uncertainty that we have lived with. Because of that, I’m not exactly willing to say that justice was served; this doesn’t necessarily fix or undo anything. It even makes me wonder if we could be entering into a more violent era as a result. But what it does bring, in a sense, is closure. We finished something that we set out to do several years ago. It helps us as Americans feel like we’ve done something right, which is especially important after a decade of a lot of huge mistakes. In a time of so much partisan bickering and every day folks feeling discouraged by the direction of our nation, it gives us something to collectively be proud of. And I think that’s really important.
But also, he was a really, really bad person. While I know that that alone is not enough to justify the death of a person, I think that the way that it all went down makes it somehow justifiable. I think it is significant that it was a special ops mission, that he and his men were armed and they engaged in gunfire, and that he was killed by a bullet to the head, and not a drone missile attack. He died armed and in combat. I can’t imagine a more heroic (also, badass!) way for it to all play out.
So does this mean that the world is now safer from the threat of terrorism? Probably not. Should we be more afraid? Probably not. In fact, maybe there will be very little tangible change as a result of this. But maybe that less obvious change, that “hopey changey stuff” of Obama’s ’08 campaign, will start to surface. Maybe people will just feel more optimistic and more unified.
That’s good enough for me.
Consider this: as news broke around 11 pm Eastern time, that meant that someone at the New York Times, Washington Post, and other east coast newspapers literally got to shout, “Stop the presses!”