Not sad but not excited by the death of a terrorist

When something is thrown upwards, there is a point at which the object’s upward momentum and the force of gravity are equal. For some time period — even if it is incredibly small — when the object hangs suspended. That is the emotional space I have occupied since learning about Osama bin Laden’s death. Any relief/closure/positive emotion has been tempered by my normal instinct that death is bad and deaths, even of bad people, are not meant to be celebrated.

Now, I should confess a few things. I grew up on Long Island and live in Washington, DC. My emotional location vis-à-vis 9/11 had been a strange place. It remains one of the worst days of my life and few things would make me happier than seeing the towers built back exactly the way there were and despite knowing New York as well as I know any place on earth, I still get lost in lower Manhattan sometimes because I still look for the WTC when I get out of the subway. Growing up, that was my compass in the city. It may always be. These are the reasons, my liberal friends tell me my opinion of anything 9/11 related is less valid because I am too close to it.

At the same time, I will never think we should do to ourselves what the terrorists could not; destroy out way of life and take away our belief in the ideals that inspired our republic. Racial intolerance cannot be mistaken for vigilance against terrorism. We cannot convince anyone outside of the US  to believe that we believe in the importance of the rule of law if we do not apply it uniformly within the US. And the Bill of Rights is as important today as it was on 9/10/2001. These are the reasons my conservative friends tell me my opinions on this subject are less valid because I “do not understand the impact 9/11 had on America.”

You can see the paradox. One might think these opinions would give me more reason to hate Osama bin Laden but I don’t. I can’t. He doesn’t deserve that. The closest thing I have had to “joy” at seeing him be killed was when I laughed at a photo of President Obama that had the caption “I am sorry it took me so long to get you my birth certificate, I was busy killing Osama bin Laden.”

At the end of the day though, if I were to become the kind of person who celebrates any loss of life — even of someone as reprehensible as this mass killer — I just become more like them and I don’t want that.

Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?

At the end of the day, the scandals that get our attention are not always the most scandalous, they are the ones that hit closest to home.  Sex is easier to get than financial problems (Enron vs. lying about an affair).  When Governor Blagojevich  tried to sell President-elect Obama’s Senate seat, and probably before, he broke the law.  It would have brought front page news regardless of the language he used but the fact that he practically dared law enforcement to listen to his calls and then the fact that he was so over the top in these conversations – does anyone remember Gary Hart’s invitation to the press to follow up and remember how well that worked out? – makes this story really what it is.  He is a jerk.  It doesn’t take much to connect points a to b here.


Frank Rich wrote a great piece on this in Sunday’s NY Times (look it up).  This is comedy.  This is not the end of our country.  While ‘impeachment fatigue’ (see same NY Times ‘Week in Review’ section) may have prevented hearings against President George Walker Bush et al but there is no question in my mind that they DEFINITELY committed ‘high crimes and misdemeanors.’ The irony of the Bill Clinton legacy may not be that he survived only after his detractors fell but that his successors survived when they should not have. 


In the context of war, depression and torture, selling a Senate seat (even on Ebay) is not as bad as it seems right now.


PS.  I think Blagojevich should be prosecuted and go to jail AND I think his phone calls were funny.  I always think we all need a little perspective, on everything.

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