That was some incredible news the other day. And those scenes of spontaneous celebration, in NYC, in front of the White House and at the Phillies game...I felt connected to my countrymen in a way I can't remember. Maybe 9/11, or when I was 8 watching the Olympics when the USSR was still in the mix. But the feeling didn't last long. Nor did I expect it to. It only took a few hours for the bickering to start, whether Obama is sharing enough credit with Bush, or if dead Osama pics should be released, or whatever other nonsense is out there.
And it's not that these questions are being asked that bothers me, but the nature of the debate. People are starting with their conclusions and working their way back to the facts that support them. The Salon did a good run down on the hater's guide to keep on hating. But most of us are aware of the ridiculous political conversations we see on our televison and read on the internet, the tribal partisanship that subdivides this nation. What can we do? Tribalism is just who we are as people, whether that's America or anywhere else.
No, the surprise wasn't the rehashing of the political arguments I've seen since my childhood. It was my joy in another human being's death. And it seems like I'm not alone. Even the Dalai Lama sanctions the hit. Although I was annoyed to see that Human Rights Watch thinks it was morally wrong to kill Osama. I was also bummed that Kurt Vonnegut is no longer alive to share his thoughts. He had such mixed emotions about human nature, it's hard to know where he would've ended up on this.
I just reread Cat's Cradle. Vonnegut had such a sweet perspective. That lost narrator working towards the book's resolution and finding his fate, clearly seeing what was wrong with other people, especially himself. He was at a loss to do anything about our collective fate except write. And my fleeting nationalism, that feeling of connectedness with my fellow countrymen, that was just a granfalloon. The nation is an arbitrary boundary which connects human beings on a superficial level. For the deep connections, I'll have to search further than the nation. Hopefully the new wife will be my duprass. Things are looking good so far, but only time will tell.
But what struck me most about all of this is how much one man directed world events in the last decade. Osama ordered 19 men to fly 4 airplanes (3 successfully) into U.S. buildings, killing nearly 3000 people. In turn, the US responded by invading two countries at a cost of 345 billion for Al Qaeda's protectors and 3 trillion for Al Qaeda's avowed enemy. The low end of total deaths as a result of these two wars is around 120,000, while it is possible the real number is much higher.
And yet Osama spent the last 6 years inside a mansion compound, his last days video taping himself watching himself on a 20' television, while we burned through that 3.5 trillion dollars and 120,000 plus people. And in the end it was a ridiculous amount of intelligence gathering, surveillance, patience, and a ballsy commando raid that took him out. All of it a reminder there was another way we could have conducted the war on terror, and how pointless that Iraq invasion was.
Anyways, I'm not sure how to end this post. Just a collection of thoughts on this guy and the last 10 years in this country. We overreacted at a terrible expense to our Treasury, our Armed Forces, and the civilian population of one Muslim country while not focusing early enough on the other. It felt great that he's dead, and it still feels good when I see unvarnished announcements of the death replayed. But it's a joy that doesn't last when I see d-bags talking about it. It's a reminder that nationalism is a false connection for those looking for real human contact, and that Kurt Vonnegut books are amazing. That guy really had a good sense of the complex beauty, humor and effed up aspects of human nature.