Twitter and Facebook have really changed everything. I’d wager more people under 40 than not found this news of OBL’s death first through one of these. (After an ambiguous text from my brother, I checked Twitter). But even more than that, it was amazing to witness all the myriad of responses from people all over. The responses are so raw. People typing away what they think at the moment, without much reflection or filtering. The comments not censored or cleansed by intervening media. It is not pooled together in to some meaningless aggregate or in to some statistic in polling numbers.
Some people are gleefully. Others are more guarded, reluctant to celebrate death, but glad to see justice served. Some folks seeing this a perfect time to score stupid and snarky political points(from all sides). Thankfully, many more seeing it as a time to remember those who have been murdered as a result of this terrorist. Others seeing this as relatively unimportant because it doesn’t seem to really change anything. Just as many seeing OBL’s death as a major game changer. We are a complicated, paradoxical people!
And I am as paradoxical, experiencing all of the above over the last 12 hours.
My first thought was: burn mother fucker, burn. But then as the news set in, I became more guarded. Certainly glad to hear the news of his death, but didn’t feel celebratory. I felt much more somber and reflective.
I admit as well there was a part of me that was somewhat disappointed that this will likely help Obama. I am not proud of that thought; it was inappropriate in my mind to be focusing on political matters and more than that, the man, incompetent and wrong-minded as I regard him, still is our president and did what he promised to do. He deserves credit for that (though most of the credit for this ought to go to CIA and the Seals). And ultimately, I don’t think this “bump” will matter for the ‘12 elections one way or the other.
This news brought me back to those fearful and sad moments of that ironically bright and sunny Tuesday morning. Maybe that is what made me more somber and reflective than celebratory and gleeful. The news of OBL’s death cannot be separated from the thoughts and emotions of that day.
Contradictions don’t exist, but I do share the sense that this doesn’t really change anything and that this is a game changer. On one hand, no troops are coming home as a result of this. There are still very real and very serious threats from al-qaeda and allied groups (and nation-states like Iran). There are many more heads on that hydra that need removal.
On the other hand, this demonstrates both the literal and symbolic failure of OBL’s major strategic goals. Quoting Jim Harper at Cato: “He did not topple any Middle East dictator toward the end of establishing a Muslim caliphate. Indeed, the people of the Middle East have begun toppling their own dictators toward the end (we earnestly hope) of establishing more liberal societies.” (http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/dead-al-qaedas-leader-and-symbol/)
An evil man with evil ideas has been dispatched. That is a good thing, even if nothing greater comes from this.