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Why I'm Not Celebrating

Maybe it's the fact that it's finals week, and am up to my neck in work.  Maybe it's the persistent lousy weather (I don't ever remember having to wear a heavy jacket during finals week of spring semester).  But although I see the death of bin Laden as an unalloyed good, I'm not ready to join in the celebrations.

First of all, they seem out of place.  The comparisons to VE and VJ day are inevitable, I suppose, but they aren't apt.  True, there was celebrating on VE day, even though there were still months of hard fighting ahead against the Japanese, but most Americans didn't expect that.  They had believed all along that Tokyo was acting as a puppet of Berlin, and that the surrender of Germany would lead immediately to the end of the fighting in the Pacific as well.  The new Truman administration knew better, as did the men who had encountered the Japanese in combat and understood how they fought.  There wasn't much in the way of celebration of VE day on Okinawa and the Philippines.

Surely, the celebrations of VE Day and VJ Day were appropriate because they represented the destruction of the Axis war machine and the return of peace.  What does the death of bin Laden mean?  The end of patdowns and full-body scanners at airports?  The withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq and Afghanistan?  We all know that's not happening anytime soon.  Indeed, we're now being put on alert about further al-Qaeda attacks. 

At best, what happened over the weekend could be compared to the death of Hitler on April 30, 1945--eight days before VE Day.  The news was warmly welcomed, of course, but there wasn't anything like the widespread spontaneous celebration that we saw on Sunday night.  In fact, bin Laden's demise probably counts for even less than Hitler's, since it's unlikely that he had any real control over al-Qaeda operations in the past few years.  It's hard to run a worldwide terrorist operation when you can't even use a telephone.

The comparison to Hitler leads me to the other reason why I haven't been jumping for joy.  After Hitler's death Stalin was determined that he was going to get hold of the body.  The Nazis recognized this, which is why they had it burned--unfortunately for them, there wasn't enough gasoline for a proper cremation.  But as soon as Soviet troops entered the city, a special detachment of NKVD was tasked with finding his remains and spiriting them back to Moscow as soon as possible.  Those remains were subjected to repeated testing over the next 25 years before finally being incinerated and scattered into a river in 1970.

By contrast, what has happened to bin Laden's body?  Today it lies at the bottom of the Indian Ocean.  Don't get me wrong.  I don't believe that there was a conspiracy--that he was secretly released, or any foolishness like that.  I'm certain that he's dead.  But I'm puzzled by the apparent haste to get rid of the body.  The only reason I've heard so far for handling things in this manner was the need to follow Islamic funeral protocols--a Muslim is expected to be buried within twenty-four hours of death.  Not only does this strike me as an incredibly weak justification, but if it was done for the sake of Muslim sensibilities it has demonstrably not worked.

Would it have been a big problem to hang onto the body for a while?  Not for the purpose of dragging it through the streets of New York City (although I understand why some might find that appealing), but to be able to pull it out for display whenever someone suggests that he's not really dead.  Worried about his grave becoming a shrine for Muslim extremists?  Fine--once it lost its usefulness, it could have been cremated and dumped, just as the Russians did with Hitler's bones in 1970.

Why does this matter?  Because Bin Laden's leadership of al-Qaeda has been largely symbolic, which means that his death only serves the larger ends of the War on Terror to the extent that the terrorists themselves believe it and are demoralized by it.  The quick disposal of the body opens the floodgates to the sort of conspiracy theories that already run wild in the Islamic world.  Mark my words, it will not be long before we are hearing reports of Elvis-style sightings of Osama.  He may even prove to be of greater service to the cause of Islamism dead than alive.

Categories > Foreign Affairs

Discussions - 45 Comments

I'll see your "humbug" and raise you a "U-S-A!" chant. Anyway, ROB answered the "why" behind the joy as well as anyone could, take it or leave it.

We intransigent youths will turn the music down now.

If you are "up to your neck in work", what prompts you to pen 750 words on a subject that bores you?

Bin Laden has been dead approximately two days now and no memeber of Al-Qaeda has stepped up to take his place. I find that quite symbolic. But of course, time will tell.

Art, what is with your compulsion for doing word counts?

(of course, since you did a word count, it's a pretty safe assumption that you don't like John's reluctance to join the cheering mob)

You offer the best case against the cheering that I have read, I'll give you that. Not soft-headed sentimentalism or a finger wagging call for sobriety or, worse, an argument about the moral equivalence of our justly indignant (now jubilant) youth with the twisted worshippers of death who danced in the streets on 9/11.

Still, there are some problems with it. In the first place, Hitler was not taken out by our guys but by his own hand. He remained--at least in one sense of the term--in control of his own fate. It could not have been as satisfying as taking him out would have been. I think that explains the subdued reaction (comparatively, anyway) to Hitler's death.

I share some of your misgivings about what we did with his body but, on the other hand, I cannot speak with any authority about what the best alternative to that might have been. My problem, like yours, has more to do with the justification given for it . . . the whole respecting Muslim tradition thing annoyed me and struck me as weak. Good Muslims take Bin Laden to be anathema to Islam anyway . . . so who did we honor with this? Magnanimity? Meh. I don't think it fits that either? I like the idea that no shrine can now be erected to him at some specific location . . . but dumping him as we did may tend to feed the crazies on all sides, as you suggest, too. It was a tough call, that's certain. Rumsfeld, btw, said it was the right call, too.

I'm not even sure I understand the point being made here.

Are you subdued because, as you say, "Bin Laden's leadership of al-Qaeda has been largely symbolic" ... and therefore (presumably) the value of this is less?

Or are you subdued because you see an opportunity lost by not maintaining possession of the body?

And Julie ... can you cite an example of "soft-headed sentimentalism" or "a finger wagging call for sobriety" and where that was expressed?

How would you characterize Peter Schramm's note: "but then another camera to soldiers in a camp in Afghanistan upon hearing of bin Laden's death. No cheering, no noise, no fear. Quiet sobriety from men at work. Impressive." Is that "soft-headed" or "finger wagging?"

Sorry to be so vague, Don . . . I'm engaged on this subject with a few friends on Facebook and was thinking of some of the comments I've seen there, especially but I have seen plenty of it in the larger media, too. It comes from both the right and the left, interestingly. Dennis Prager did a whole hour about it today on his show.

Dancing in the street isn't everybody's cup of tea, probably, but I find something churlish in the inclination to condemn it in others (especially when those others are the young and wiser heads should consider that for half of their lives this loathsome creature has loomed like a specter of death for them). It is not wrong to celebrate the meting out of justice. It ought to be hugely reassuring to the vast majority of us to know that the young are still capable, instinctively (before consulting with their grad school professors) of recognizing justice and being pleased with it. And there is also something worthy in their capacity to applaud the exertion of American power and authority on behalf of that justice. Thumos lives! Thank God.

But Peter's admiration of the quiet soldiers is fitting, too. And not a contradiction of the raucous behavior of their peers in the streets. They do not partake because they have serious work ahead of them--maybe more now. And they know what this victory cost us in ways those happy young people cannot be expected to understand. And as John notes, the work is not finished. There is nothing soft-headed or finger-wagging about that at all. Of course not.

Microsoft Word will complete the word count in a matter of seconds, even one of your multipart, link-strewn 2,000 word jabbers about Glenn Beck. I sometimes find it amusing what people invest their verbiage in and what they do not.

you don't like John's reluctance to join the cheering mob

Yeah, they're all soccer hooligans.

If you are "up to your neck in work", what prompts you to pen 750 words on a subject that bores you?

I'll grant you that I spent more time on this than I can comfortably afford, but what makes you think that this is a subject that bores me?

The subject of the post was your own lack of engagement with the events at hand.

One can't be interested in something without celebrating it?

The celebrations struck me, from their outset, as mindless exuberance. The comparisons with VE Day and VJ Day aren't even close to apt.

VE Day marked the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany. VJ Day marked the unconditional surrender of Japan. Both marked the end of war and the beginning of the return of American troops.

The killing of bin Landen signifies nothing remotely comparable to that. We really don't know what will follow from it. Certainly, as you point out, the war against terrorism goes on. The threat of terrorism has not abated. The radical Islamic hatred of America is no less than before, nor is the resolve of radical Muslims to kill as many of us as they possibly can.

I am delighted that bin Laden has been killed. But the hooting and celebrating in the streets was a display of mindlessness unlike anything I've ever seen.

But the hooting and celebrating in the streets was a display of mindlessness unlike anything I've ever seen.

I take it you weren't around when Princess Diana died back in 1987? Now there was a display of mindlessness unlike anything ever. Shameless wailing on streetcorners for a person they hadn't met nor knew in any sense of that word. Bah.

1997 ... off by a decade.

As was the celebration (in America) of her son's nuptials . . . but thanks for reminding me of that grotesque display of irrationality in 1997. I lost an actual and a true friend during that same week and this made all the wailing and wallowing for a person who was . . . well, not exactly a pillar of moral excellence, all the more galling. Yes, that takes the cake. I am surprised at Mechelle . . . but, let it go. I am weary of this argument and it makes me sad to see so many otherwise sensible people acting churlish.

John, honest question for you, with no presumptions on my part:

Would you have been equally reluctant to celebrate this death (paraphrasing an earlier blogger or commenter - Andrew or ROB, I think) if Bush had been the one who issued the final order?

It appears Megan McArdle is also evaluating the satisfaction (or lack thereof) of Bin Laden's demise:

"Don't get me wrong: I do not think killing Bin Laden was morally or even tactically wrong. I just think it's profoundly unsatisfying."

That sense of it being "profoundly unsatisfying" is one element of my view of all this. Not my whole reason for restraint, but an element.

"Churl" -- a rude, boorish, or surly person. Are you suggesting some of us on this site that are expressing reservations about celebration are being churlish?.

Final question -- you'd mentioned Dennis Prager devoting a portion of his show. I'm curious -- what was his stance?

I take it you weren't in Baltimore during the last game of 1983 World Series. I was not able to get to sleep until 3:00 in the morning. I didn't give a rats ass about baseball (and still don't).

Aye, one can be interested, if the events repel you or if you fancy yourself Margaret Mead.

I don't think the comparison to VE day of VJ day works, but how about the Dolittle Raid on Tokyo? It was a symbolic act that American's cheered

Yes, a better analogy.

If I move it to the realm of sports analogies ...

o VE / VJ day is a celebration of the final score of a hard-fought football game in which many of the players were injured. There is celebration it is over and the outcome justified the cost.

o The Dolittle Raid is like cheering a touchdown in a game where the hometeam is behind. The game is still underway and the touchdown illustrates and gives hope to the potential of victory.

o The death of Bin Laden is like cheering the defeat of a rival that is no longer really a threat. Another team in the league is now the competition; satisfaction in defeating the has-been team is borrowing on memories past. Symbolic, perhaps; but that symbolism does not lend much to the chase for the league championship.

I'll revise my earlier comment: The hooting and celebrating in the streets ranked among the most mindless displays I've ever seen.

To characterize that view as "churlish" (rude, mean-spirited, and surly) only shows how impoverished is the defense for all the hooting and celebrating. If you can't justify your behavior, besmirch the character of your critics. What next? Spray-painted graffiti?

That's a fair question. I must admit that the first I heard of Osama's death was from a link shared on Facebook by my sister (a partisan Democrat) with the comment "Obama Rocks." That annoyed me, particularly since Osama was, it appears, tracked down through the use of interrogation methods that candidate Obama routinely deplored.

I probably would have been happier had this development occurred closer to the actual 9/11 attacks, when the wounds were still raw. In the days immediately following the attacks I wanted to see Osama's head on a pike paraded through Times Square. I cheered the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq (although I never went as far as one of my former colleagues who called for the forcible "de-Islamization" of the Middle East.

As time has progressed, however, I've concluded that, although we'll continue to score victories such as this, we'll never really win the War on Terror, at least in my lifetime. It will keep going and going, with further military expeditions that we cannot afford, and infringements on our personal liberty that will enrage at first, but soon will come be to accepted as routine. I guess that as I move further into middle age I find myself growing tired of the whole thing. But, in answer to your question, that process began long before Obama entered the White House.

I probably would have been happier had this development occurred closer to the actual 9/11 attacks, when the wounds were still raw.

But that's something different from the core of Craig's question. To create apples-to-apples would require we assume present time frame but with a Republican in the oval office. That can't be Bush. So let's say McCain had won. Now the question is -- would we be as reluctant to celebrate under that situation?

I will confess that Obama being president taints a great deal of my worldview on such things. But that said, I think I can say with sincerity that the same sense of dull emptiness about the whole thing would still exist in my mind. The key variables are the passage of time, the diminishment of Bin Laden's role, and the metasticizing of radical Islam to so many other countries.

we'll never really win the War on Terror, at least in my lifetime. It will keep going and going, with further military expeditions that we cannot afford, and infringements on our personal liberty that will enrage at first, but soon will come be to accepted as routine.

For the record...

Military expenditures as a share of domestic product stood at about 3.5% at the close of the Clinton Administration and are now about 5.1%. The Cold War mean, maintained over a period of 40-odd years, was around 7% or 8%. About 70% of our armed forces are billeted in the United States and north of 80% of the remainder are in one of about half-a-dozen countries abroad (Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Germany, Japan, &c). The Iraq War will conclude 'ere long and the operation in Afghanistan is modest in scale - rather like the 'advisory war' in Vietnam persued prior to 1965. This ain't breakin' the bank. You may think it is money ill-spent, but that is a different argument.

Scanners at airports have been there since 1973 or therabouts. Roving wiretaps got you down?

Churlish because there is a certain element of holier than thou judgementalism coming from some quarters of this criticism . . . particularly from those inclined to quote scripture or phony Martin Luther King comments. But from those who are generally not offended by the killing of this horrible man, the chastising of the exuberance of the cheering crowds strikes me as churlish because it is a substitution for of personal taste for opinion.

You may not be inclined to jump up and down over this . . . but ordinary human sympathy demands that we apply a generous standard when judging the reactions of other people (particularly of young people) to news of this kind od significance. I will say, once more, that the reactions of a 17-25 year old who is not deployed in fighting this war cannot be compared to those of much older people. In the main, they have known nothing but war and terror on the international scene. We cannot know how heavily that has weighed upon their hearts or how relieved they must feel in the face of evidence that we are not impotent to exact justice . . .that evil will be punished. This was an affirmation for the young of the greatness and goodness of their nation. It is churlish to suggest that they were partying on the streets because they relish death or because they are too stupid to know that this is not the end. They were entitled to their moment of joy.

Prager's views on this, so far as I was able to discern, are in line with mine. Like me, he was puzzled (and troubled) by the moral confusion that led people to question the reaction. It does not bode well for our health as a strong and good nation that we cannot even kill a bad guy and be happy about it without self-flagellation. Thank God the young have not yet had their moral sense perverted by their elders on this point and I pray that now they have seen the ridiculous reaction of so many of their elders they will comfortably disregard those opinions and seek out better guides for their future.

Wow. Okay.

You're assuming a good heart in all the celebrants, and a judgmental heart it all those inclined not to.

There are some who urge caution who do so out of a spirit of genuine concern, and others who are merely being judgmental. Similarly, there are celebrants who do so out of a reasoned sense of relief, and those who do so out of a more bloodthirsty sense of revenge.

You seem to see all discussions of restraint as judgmentalism. And it appears you do so based on your own view of the rightness of the action.

My guess is your view would change if details of the method of execution were to be revealed. Imagine he was not merely shot resisting, but was captured, beaten and decapitated. I'm not saying that happened. But imagine it did. The end result is the same (he's dead). Do you now say people have a right to their moment of relief? Or is it tainted.

And if tainted, would you then agree that the result (his death) is not necessarily justification for unqualified celebration?

For what it's worth, in another thread I posted Bible verses mostly because Kate took the discussion in that direction. For what it's worth I don't condemn those who celebrate. I do believe they will come to realize, as Megan McArdle does, that there's an inherent dissatisfaction with all this. I held in contempt the wailers for Diana, that I'll confess. I do not hold in equal contempt the celebrants here. I am simply reacting to a more vague sense of dissonance I perceive.

I like Prager in general, but his discourses on morality often leave me scratching my head. His thinking and argumentation is not always linear or consistent.

To my colleague John Moser: I am interested in your parallels between the response OBL's death and the end of WWII.
I would like to hear your historian's analysis of this comment from an editorial by Gary Younge in today's Guardian:
"The reason Bin Laden's death was a source of such elation is in part because almost every other American response to 9/11 is regarded as a partial or total failure."

Perhaps, if we need to make a comparison with WWII, we are looking at El Alamein (1942) not Berlin (1945).
I am sure this is a real, not a Pyrrhric victory; however, the fact that we are even trying to compare the assassination of one murderous fanatic with the defeat of the Axis powers suggests a desperation for good news. I am afraid you are probably correct when you write that "we'll never really win the War on Terror. . . It will keep going and going, with further military expeditions that we cannot afford, and infringements on our personal liberty that will enrage at first, but soon will come be to accepted as routine."
The death of OBL is not VT day.

Peter Slade, that sounds right to me.

Julie, Don is right, I brought up the question about the Christian response to OBL's death. We were trading Biblical references because that was the question. I was raising it as an aside to him because of the emails and Facebook postings I was getting or seeing of the sort you mention. I respect his views in that area, especially, and wanted to see what he thought. What he said was not particularly judgmental, although it was about how to use good judgment about this, if a Christian.

We can feel sorry and sober about the death of a human being, because human, even though we really have to be happy about the death of this particular human being, because of his disregard for the lives of other human beings.

While I am, therefore, happy to see OBL gone, I am dreading the response of his fans, who are fans in the worst sense of the abbreviated word. I think there is bound to be ambiguity for them, no matter how the publicity about the execution is handled. (I.e., picture or no picture) He was their Scarlet Pimpernel: we sought him here, we sought him there, we Yankees sought him everywhere. To those who thought that a good thing, his demise must be unthinkable. And in relation to that idea, OBL was always going to be a martyr if caught and killed. If there are many in the Muslim world who don't believe he is dead, that might actually be good, to allow for doubt among his followers and admirers. It might soften the instinct for retaliation against perfectly harmless and unassociated Westerners -- fewer or no decapitations being better. Don't you think?

Ramesh Ponnuru weighs in --

The implication of the traditional Christian view of these matters, it seems to me, is that we may rightly celebrate the fact that Americans have stopped bin Laden from being able to do further harm, have brought him to justice, and have struck a great blow (even if partly symbolic) against his evil cause. What those of us who accept the tradition may not do, however, is celebrate his death as such. That is, we should not be happier that he is dead than we would be if he had been captured and committed for punishment.

(Emphasis mine)

He concludes:

The distinction between retribution and revenge can seem like hair-splitting, but it nonetheless has a hold on our culture. If bin Laden had been killed while trying to surrender, the country’s satisfaction at his end would be less intense and less widespread. He would be just as dead and just as unmourned, but under those circumstances the justice of the act by which he died would have been muddier. And it is justice, not revenge, that we are and should be celebrating.

(Again, emphasis mine.)

I think that seems pretty fair and balanced.

It's a subtle thing, to be sure.

But subtleties are important to acknowledge and understand. Life can't be sorted into precise rules ... but that does not lead to a conclusion of relativism.

And no, I can't explain that. I sense it. Can't explain it.

That's from a former Navy Seal who is now a pastor. I certainly don't ascribe a general pacifism to your or Kate (indeed I wasn't even speaking to your previous exchange as I had not read it) but I think that a large chunk of the Christians who are now over-scrupulous about this thing are too heavily influenced by a theology that is coming from this pacifist strain.

Also, I did pretty clearly say "some" where you have ascribed to me an "all" . . . For the last time I will say that my largest concern here is that we try to understand the young celebrants as they understood themselves. Undoubtedly some were just happy to have an excuse to get drunk and raise heck . . . but even that is not the same thing as celebrating death. We may have to agree to disagree about this. I confess that I cannot wrap my mind around anything that I consider to be a worthwhile reason to be critical of jubilant Americans in the face of good news. Maybe you have to attend the right church or the right grad school to get it. Guess I didn't.

I assume you are Julie. And you're right -- I'm not a pacifist.

I hear the words about "understanding the young celebrants." I'm not terribly sympathetic to that line of argument, but I understand why the argument is being made. My reasons for not being sympathetic are down a different conversational path, so I will not cloud the waters here with those thoughts.

Just this afternoon I heard Hugh Hewitt going on and on about this topic. To him it's "elemental." There is "joy in justice served." To that I do not argue.

And for the last time, I do not condemn. I am merely expressing my own personal sense of dissonance over events and reactions.

Would I rather Bin Laden be alive and mocking us via videos? No.

Would I rather he be sitting in a maximum security cell somewhere getting three squares a day at my expense? No.

Do I regret the action taken to eliminate him? No.

Do I regret his death? No.

Do I feel this is a victory in some measure? Yes.

Do I feel this is a major victory? No.

Do I feel like dancing and shouting and celebrating? No.

Do I feel like berating those who feel relief, or joy, or some other positive emotion? No.

Do I think in a week, or a month, people will be reflecting on this? Yes. There's a great deal of reflection yet to be done on this event and this issue.

Am I an "over-scrupulous Christian?" No. You may be surprised to learn I daily question whether I am a Christian at all given the state of my heart as I see it. I take solace in the fact I am thinking about it at all.

Is there at least some merit in reflecting on the nature of evil, of justice, and of power employed? There ought to be.

Did I go to the right grad school? Michigan State -- you be the judge.

Do I go to the right church? A Presbyterian church in Tucson. Again, you be the judge.

Julie writes: In the main, they [17-25 year olds] have known nothing but war and terror on the international scene. We cannot know how heavily that has weighed upon their hearts or how relieved they must feel in the face of evidence that we are not impotent to exact justice . . .that evil will be punished. This was an affirmation for the young of the greatness and goodness of their nation.

In the space of two sentences, you traveled from the premise that we cannot know what motivated the young celebrants, to the flat-footed conclusion that their celebrations were "an affirmation ... of the greatness and goodness of their nation."

That is an astonishing journey. It is also a highly questionable journey. If I found it in an essay written by a college senior, I would flag it and send that student back for a re-think and a rewrite. Since you are well past the college senior level, what are we to make of your argument? Do you expect us to take it seriously?

Michelle, they are young. They are given to ebullience by nature, whether the object of celebration is the exploits of the Baltimore Orioles or those of Navy SEALs. Get over it.

My, how the explanations multiply. First we’re told that these were thoughtful youth "affirming the greatness and goodness of their nation." Now the story is that the celebrations were merely the ebullience of youth who would make just as much fuss over the greatness and goodness of the Baltimore Orioles.

What I think we're seeing here is a foregone conclusion by the defenders of the celebrations. The challenge is to cobble together some semblance of an argument to support that conclusion. Thus far, it's been pretty mediocre cobbling.

No, what we are seeing are alternate explanations offered by several different people, none of whom is responsible for the opinions of the others (and two of whom have a history of sniping and snarling at each other).

I can think of a half-dozen different reasons to take exception to the modal disposition and behavior of contemporary youth. They drink too much. They take stupid risks behind the wheel of a car. They have loose morals, keep the purveyors of abortion and contraception in business, produce bastard children as a matter of course, and are in general incapable of blushing. Their language is commonly course, undignified, and ungrammatical. They turn public spaces into their private spaces, and leave the bloody food wrappers behind, along with a trail of used Kleenex. They seem to have scant resistance to the kultersmog, high and low. They listen to repulsive anti-music. They cannot walk 500 ft without swigging from a water bottle and making four phone calls. However, their energy and exuberance I do not begrudge them. To expect them to express themselves the way fat middle-aged depressives do is to lack an appreciation for life in all its variety.

Why exactly did you think the celebrations were so horrible? Perhaps it would be easier for you to identify what in particular was wrong with the celebrations rather than what the defenders thought was right.

I'm glad the bastard is dead, but I too have some qualms about the exuberance. I keep remembering how the Palestinian street crowds cheered when the towers came down (a sobering moment for anyone who thinks that radical Islam is confined to a few crazies living in caves). I also felt that Saddam's execution was far too summarily conducted because the Iraqis had a chance to be better that Saddam and failed. I felt the same way about Nixon's resignation (I was surrounded by proto-liberals at the time, and the celebration was untoward).

It's not politics or my view of the West that matters here. It's a concern for decorum -- we should never conduct ourselves like hooting chimpanzees. Part of being truly human is the conscious act of transcending animal passions. This is one of the enduring benefits of a Christian heritage.

Why exactly did you think the celebrations were so horrible? Perhaps it would be easier for you to identify what in particular was wrong with the celebrations rather than what the defenders thought was right.

I've already answered your question. I did not say the celebrations were "horrible." Read the comments.

Speaking of histories of sniping at each other . . . let us temporarily bury one. For I am compelled to say that the last line of your last post is masterful. Yet I am quite certain that I will have said it in some way that is unsatisfactory to you, as most things are. But anyway, a curtsy.

Below is a good article by Daniel Krauthammer on this issue. According to him, OBL represented a man, a threat, and a symbol. Americans rejoiced over the death of the threat and the symbol which was brought about by the death of the man.

My final thoughts on this (BTW, thank you Internet, for making me think anyone cares!):

The individual who declared war on America (twice) then planned and executed the 9/11 attacks which murdered 2,977 people was found and shot in the face (twice) during a daring raid. Groups of [primarily young] people rushed to the White House and Ground Zero, evidently some of them had been drinking first, where the crowds waved American flags, cheered, sang patriotic songs, and recited the Pledge of Allegiance. As far as I know no cars were turned over, no shop windows were broken, and no public property was defaced. Yet some Americans don't like this reaction: either it's too similar to the way "they" acted on 9/11 or it's a celebration over a hollow victory with many a battle still to be fought or it's a hooligan-style overreaction which takes away from the dignity of the occasion (or a combination of any of those things).

These negative reactions-to-the-reaction by a minority of Americans on the Right (the Left's poo-pooers don't suprise me) is nothing but confusing to me. I honestly don't get it and find it odd. Such a poignant transaction of Justice should, in my humble opinion, inspire exactly what it did that night. Oh well, whatever.


Many thanks.

1. Decorum at Mass, yes. (I do not think the young are the drivers of the degradation of the Mass - clergymen, choirmasters, and parish counsels are - most of whom are on the cusp of old age).

2. Decorum at the dinner table, yes. (The young I observe seem to track their mothers and fathers fairly closely in this respect).

3. Decorum when perambulating around the neighborhood, yes. (The young are not, however, worse slobs than their elders. My favorite cherry-picked example was running accross the vice president of a local college some years ago with his wife, a woman whose voice and casual conversation suggests someone haute bourgeois from birth. They were both pushing prams and both in baseball caps and T-shirts. I never saw either my mother or my father in either in such a get up in a public place; my father slept in T-shirts, and shlepped about the house in them to my mother's distress.)

4. Decorum in the classroom and the workplace, yes. (And when you don't see it, you invariably see an elder who has given up).

5. Decorum in sports stadiums or during parades or during rallies...not so much. There is a time and a place for everything. As long as no sabotage or riot or vandalism takes place and the noise does not occur in the wee hours of the morning, grumps like us can forget about it.

There is a danger in these circumstances of legitimate celebration bleeding over into illegitimate shaldenfreude. But it is difficult to tell from observing strangers in aggregate how much of this sort of transgression is occurring in individual hearts.


And Redwald, when you take an inventory of the behavior of those on the West Bank, Gaza, and in the UNRWA camps, malice and burn-down-my-neighbor's house perversity permeates everything they do as a political society. There is really no analogy between us and them.

Beg to differ, AD. We are all human, and the tendency to revel in the death of an enemy is wired deep in the ape brain. Yet, the very reason we feel morally superior to terrorists is that, unlike them, we allow reason to rule our behaviors and peaceful compromise to shape our destinies.

Killing is sometimes necessary, but I don't think it's something that should be celebrated. We shouldn't run from the responsibility of doing it when it is necessary (as Obama is by trying to do by tell the world to "move along...nothing to see here"), but we don't have to take a bath in the blood of our enemies.

If we are truly better than our enemies, we should be sober in the face of necessary violence (i.e., we should be adults about it). And yes, I am arguing that we need to transcend our own human nature.

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