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Jubilee in Washington

When the news of the monster's slaying reached our televisions and computer screens, some twenty of my peers and neighbors made our way to Union Pub for a celebratory drink as we waited for President Obama's speech. Late on a Sunday night, the bar had been winding down to close but welcomed the business as more trailed in behind us. While we waited for the president's remarks, we saw on CNN that crowds were beginning to form outside of the White House. Within minutes we were sprinting across the street to Union Station, hailing a taxi cab and cramming as many inside as we could. The driver, unaware of what was going on, started up his blue tooth to tell others of the development when we relayed the news.

We were soon outside of the North Lawn, a crowd having already formed at the sidewalk there as TV cameras rolled. Every minute, more and more descended upon the area with celebratory joy from every direction until it was completey packed from the fence to Lafayette Park, throngs out to cheer the demise of our greatest enemy. Sparklers were lit, vuvuzelas sounded, and chants abounded. Every few moments the crowd broke into the Star Spangled Banner or other songs, American flags waving about. People climbed atop the lampposts and trees to hang their flags high, police and Secret Service watching from a distance as the happy crowd was self-controlled. The atmosphere was almost that of a school pep rally at times.

Opting to walk back to our Capitol Hill home sometime after one in the morning, we continued to pass throngs of happy people heading towards the White House. Throughout the city cars were honking their horns in celebration, their windows rolled down as they cheered or waved flags. Many cars passing by, and an occasional bar, had Toby Keith's Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue blasting (Refrain of that song: "Uncle Sam put your name at the top of his list, and the Statue of Liberty started shaking her fist, and the Eagle will fly, man it's gonna be hell when you hear mother freedom start ringing her bell, and it feels like the whole wide world is raining down on you, brought to you courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue."). It was not until approaching Chinatown that the sounds of the White House crowd finally began to die away. Returning home, we put on the President's speech (having missed it while out and about), said goodnight, and slept a good sleep knowing that justice had prevailed over the beast who had taken something from us in our youth when we all sat in our schoolyards, homerooms, and dormitories ten years ago and looked on in confused horror on that terrible day. Justice prevails. God Bless America.
Categories > History

Discussions - 19 Comments

Fair enough, but is it too soon to consider if Osama was a great man? 1 guy giving up the bars and enjoyments of aristocratic/wealthy business life in Saudi Arabia, to take on an aesthetic warrior life/eternal jihad against both the russians and the americans. At the least it takes some balls to be that far on the wrong side of history, and what Osama might have justifiably felt towards Afghanistan was probably greater than your typical opium farmer.

I am only saying this because you picked (H)history as your topic heading. It is an end of history sort of celebration. Resistance to the jubilee of Washington is futile.

I am just saying, He turned down the wisdom of business associations, civil engineering and economics, and embraced religion, that is not a smart career move. In 1979 when he was fighting the Soviets quite a few folks believed that the soviets were on the right side of history, when the soviets collapsed a lot of folks figured Reagan and the U.S. were on the right side of history, but that is certainly a memo Osama didn't get.

"When the news of the monster's slaying reached our televisions and computer screens"

"slept a good sleep knowing that justice had prevailed over the beast who had taken something from us in our youth when we all sat in our schoolyards, homerooms, and dormitories ten years ago"

The fact that you phrase everything about this as though it were some sort of fairy tale makes me wonder what part(s) of you Bin Laden took; I'm guessing a part pertaining to cognitive development.

The chants of "USA!" and the (apparent resurgence in popularity of the) Toby Keith song (why didn't you quote the "boot up your a**" line?) really just make this the equivalent of some high school football rivalry.

The Toby K song lyrics you did provide are enough to make one wince (surely the Islamic fundamentalists have their own song like this, about 9/11 itself):

"...Statue of Liberty started shaking her fist... man it's gonna be hell when you hear mother freedom start ringing her bell, and it feels like the whole wide world is raining down on you"

Mother freedom??? Come on. This act of retribution has brought no freedom to anyone, and it was carried out by a country that has, in the name of fighting terror, whittled away at its own freedoms to such a great extent that even many conservatives/regressives have started to take notice (enjoying your TSA porno-scans and gropes lately? Like explaining to your kids that the "bad touch" is okay when Big Government's doing it?).

Sure, it's good to know that this guy wasn't able to avoid consequences for his role in 9/11 - I'll drink to that - but when I hear "it feels like the whole world is raining down on you" it makes me think much more about the spectacular disaster of 9/11 and our disastrous policies afterward. What has it cost us to get Bin Laden? $1.3 trillion (min.)
http://www.salon.com/news/politics/war_room/2011/05/02/cost_of_bin_laden_wars

and MORE soldiers lost in the wars (just in Iraq alone even) than were lost in the 9/11 attacks themselves.

Whatever closure Bin Laden's death brings - but the war on terror will surely continue, just like the war on drugs - it won't erase the horrific memories of 9/11. His death from bullets in his compound is anti-climactic; the best, most precise and understandable response to 9/11 that we've had (getting the guy behind it) doesn't have that end-of-the-world mushroom-cloud-orgy-oh-no-doomsday feel (although I suppose "Shock and Awe" was an attempt at that, maybe the torture stuff, too) that 9/11 had to it. So, back to the football analogy - perhaps we won our championship, but that first game that we lost was our Absolute Worst Game Ever. And Bin Laden's death won't take that away, unfortunately.

This is a good read:

http://www.salon.com/news/politics/war_room/2011/05/02/osama_and_chants_of_usa

We understand that this is a tough day for you Craig since your hero is dead.

ZING!!

Shocking as it may seem, I agree in spirit with Craig's post. Not every element. But in totality, I think he is onto something about the inappropriateness of the festivities.

You weren't a young man when it happened. I was a senior in high school and watched the second plane hit live (one of the students celebrating in front of the White House noted that she was in forth grade when it happened) - the following decade has been filled with war and contentious poliltics. Yesterday was awesome.

You're saying your youth makes your observance of that day somehow more profound than mine?

My point has nothing whatever to do with how deeply one experienced 9/11 (I lived in D.C. at the time ... I could match you one-for-one in "live" experiences). My point is that prideful celebrations have a way of coming back to bite the prideful.

So I merely suggest a bit more calm reflection, and a kind of quiet gratitude. That will suffice. And in fact serve everyone better.

Point well taken, Don. I wasn't trying to play the "it hurt my feelings more" card by any means and regret having come across that way.

However, I will once again invoke the images of VE-Day and VJ-Day, or perhaps the sentiments of Uniionists after Gettysburg are a better example (like us, they still had a war to fight and win). Do you think those celebrations were out of line?

Andrew: Your comparisons to V-E Day and V-J Day are ridiculous. Those celebrations were a huge sigh of relief that we had persevered, we had definitively won the war and achieved surrenders from our enemies (contrast that w/ today's numerous assurances from all quarters that the War on Terror will and must continue), and that Our Boys were coming home, en masse. Our victory over very specific things - not evil-doing, not terror, not some horrifically bad behavior and its resulting emotional response - was clear. It was an infinitely more clear-cut and substantial victory; it wasn't just a symbolic victory.

Even Giuliani - hardly an exemplar of first-class behavior, said:

"I feel satisfaction and some emotional relief, but I don't feel great elation. I watch a lot of the celebrating and it makes me feel a little strange, I don't know. Nothing erases the loss of all those lives. ... so I feel satisfaction and I feel the right thing has been done. and I guess it will good thing ultimately but I don't feel like celebrating [as if it's] the end of World War II, because the war is still going on."

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0511/54089.html#ixzz1LHfzSd00

And I can't even guess what you were trying to say when you noted that you were young and in high school when the attacks occurred and that you saw it on TV. So what? Frankly, I might have guessed that you are still in high school.

Are Americans behaving badly? I have only seen photos of the American mobs rejoicing. No TV means muted news. I admit, when reading Robinson's post I thought the only missing bit was a Claude and Eustace pinching the policeman's helmet moment: "Why I joined the mob and it was good."

However, Craig, during WWII when the European war ended, the Pacific front was not over and still people rejoiced like crazy. We were still at war, our people were not coming home the next day; Andrew has a point and even a symbolic victory in the War on Terror is a big one given the nature of the conflict. We have been waiting ten years for this and a man who was the face of Al Qaeda, for the major threat of a generation, is dead -- gone. How is that not big enough to celebarte?

And if much of the war is being fought through secret information then this is more than a symbolic victiory. "A treasure trove of information" was on hard-drives and laptops and captured -- this was a real victory in those terms.

Are Americans behaving badly? I have only seen photos of the American mobs rejoicing. No TV means muted news. I admit, when reading Robinson's post I thought the only missing bit was a Claude and Eustace pinching the policeman's helmet moment: "Why I joined the mob and it was good."

However, Craig, during WWII when the European war ended, the Pacific front was not over and still people rejoiced like crazy. We were still at war, our people were not coming home the next day; Andrew has a point and even a symbolic victory in the War on Terror is a big one given the nature of the conflict. We have been waiting ten years for this and a man who was the face of Al Qaeda, for the major threat of a generation, is dead -- gone. How is that not big enough to celebrate?

And if much of the war is being fought through secret information then this is more than a symbolic victory. "A treasure trove of information" was on hard-drives and laptops and captured -- this was a real victory in those terms.

I thought it didn't go. Sorry. The second one has spelling corrections.

Our generation has not known an actual "war" where we can celebrate a definitive end. This is as close to a VE Day that we are going to get in a "War on Terror" that will last for generations.

I for one am not ashamed at the celebrations, and I am proud of the SEAL team that put a bullet through an evil man's brain. True, this will ultimately not change anything, as there are hundreds more terrorist leaders who will step in to fill the void. But Osama was the figurehead of the jihadist movement and his death is significant, both in terms of morale for both sides and as a victory for the US in a long, drawn-out conflict.

These kind of decisive victories need to be celebrated, and for the generation of Americans who came of age after 9/11, this is the first taste of justice.

"Are Americans behaving badly?" -- no.

I just have a different sense for what this occasion calls for.

Giuliani's quote up in Craig's post is closer to what I sense about all this.

VJ day came about due to, in part, the bombing of Nagasaki. Do we celebrate the incineration of a city and the deaths of tens of thousands? No. Do we celebrate the outcome of that sacrifice? Yes ... but muted, I would suggest.

Do any of you recall the day Timothy McVee was executed? I do ... I was glad he was gone, but in my heart was the oddest sense of emptiness. The same thing here -- I'm glad Bin Laden is dead; but I can't shake the odd feeling that this doesn't really mark the end of our troubles. There's always evil present.

I don't know ... perhaps I'm just a old fart stick in the mud.

I understand where you and the others who caution against our elation are coming from. It is difficult to explain why we youth feel a bit differently in the appropriateness of our response. I think what Andrew and Ben are trying to get at with mentioning our age at the time of the attacks is that it, while in no means trying to belittle the pain and tragedy and shock felt by all on that day, may have shaped our view of the world a bit more severely than the older generations. We all spent our youth in the peace and prosperity of the 1990s, no fear of Communists or nukes or fascists instilled in us and with the seeming promise that we had nothing but peace and fortune ahead of us. As we sat in our classrooms that day and our teachers sat there with the same look of horror as us, that promise went away. It is not so much how that day made us feel but how its consequences came to dominate our youth and adult lives; it's all we have known. For many of us, the remainder of our youth and the totality of our adulthood has been spent in the miserable past decade that bin Laden forced us into, with our siblings and our schoolmates going off very far away to fight people we've never met, and too often not coming back. After a decade of cynicism and frustration in thinking that the man responsible for that will probably never be held accountable, despite having dominated our worldview for all of our adult lives, I say without shame that the feeling I felt when hearing the news was elation, not just relief. I am ecstatic that justice has finally been done and that we're finally rid of him; happy that he's answered now for what he did to the country.

While our parents and grandparents have a longer view of history than we who were free of the Berlin Wall did, they were still unable to explain anything to us on that day because it was just as horrible for them as it was for us. Yet preceding generations have seen justice before and have seen victory before. We have not. So when the man responsible for dictating so much of our adulthood's world dies, we have some euphoric and instinctual desire to be elated. He was the only true face of evil we have ever known, and he's gone now. Yeah, his threats remain and we're not naive enough to think we're out of the clear, but we actually feel good and happy in a way that we have never felt since this war began while we were all still in school. We hold him responsible for everything (you won't see us so elated at Khalid Sheik Mohamed's death, Gaddafi's fall, or when Saddam was captured/executed) and cannot help feeling jubilation that he's gone. We've never seen the good guys win so clearly before; there's finally hope for us that eventually justice does catch those who commit evil.

As I said, it's difficult to explain and I apologize for not being able to form the words right to do so; instead I'll ask that you forgive us our youth and inexperience in seeing just desserts so greatly served.

You did a nice job explaining in your post. Thanks.

Thanks.

Just to mix things up a bit:

(The post was ridiculous and pathetic and the veiled attempt to back-pedal it even more so. You can't class up a post about celebrating death with Toby Keith and bar-hopping by mentioning the Greatest Generation, justice, blah blah blah)

ROB, your explanation is very good. I like it better than the post, though they work well together. Perhaps you could combine them to develop a larger piece of writing for a larger audience: refine and enlarge.

Craig must have forgotten to rejoice when the Berlin Wall fell and when the communists were swept from power in the USSR. Elation: that was exactly what I felt, and for days. Of course, the US was less involved in that. No Americans had a direct hand in the toppling. There was no nationalistic, "Yeah! for our side!" but here was a distinctly human, "Yeah! for freedom's side." While there were still many problems in the world, that looming threat of our whole lives was gone and it was very good.

While we were no less elated by what was happening over there, I don't think it ever occurred to us to take to the streets. For one thing, we would have had to go find a babysitter in order to do something like you and your friends did. I know I danced over the news at home, as I did over the news about the death of OBL the other night, running to tell everyone who was awake in my house the good news.

Don't mind the curmudgeons.

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