Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What Osama Bin Laden's Death Means

Unless you have been living under a rock, I'm sure you have heard about the raid in Pakistan that killed Osama Bin Laden, the most wanted man in the world by the U.S. Many are now wondering what this will mean for the U.S., the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, terrorism, and the world at large.

From where I sit, there will only be one direct result of Bin Laden's death: He will be seen as a Martyr. There will be no sudden end to Islamist militarism and terrorism. The seemingly endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will not come to a screeching halt. Nothing in the world will change other than Bin Laden will be viewed as a martyr by those whose cause he directly supported, and they will become even more devout in their desire to eradicate Western mentalities.

There seems to be, from what I can garner from various news sources and blogs, to be two conflicting mindsets about this event. There is one camp that is overjoyed at Bin Laden having finally been found and executed (even though reports are saying he wasn't executed, but killed in the firefight). This camp feels that justice has been served, and that a sworn enemy of the United States has been put down at last. The other point of view is one of a reactionary sadness, where the celebration of the death of a person is seen as a sad state of affairs in our psyche as a nation. If we truly do enjoy the deaths of our enemies, how does that make us any better than them?

These are both understandable points of view, and I empathize completely with where they are coming from. However, I am in a seemingly small third camp that is just sort of sitting on the sidelines, waiting for the ruckus to calm down. Personally, I am somewhat ambivalent about the whole thing. September 11th was nearly a decade ago. There has been so much that has happened in the mean time. To me, it really isn't about Osama Bin Laden anymore. He became to the American psyche what the Boogeyman is to a small child: some untouchable, ultimately evil force that is out to get us, and if we could only scare him out of his hiding place and give him what he deserves, everything would be okay. There has been a lot of bloodshed since 9/11/01; many times over the number of people killed on that fateful day.

On one hand, I find myself agreeing with those that mourn our countrymen celebrating the death of another human being. On the other, I understand the closure this will give to so many who were/have been affected directly by that horrible day. This is not to say I no longer care or remember 9/11. I remember that day quite clearly. I remember sitting in my English class, as the school was put into lockdown. The principle came over the P.A. system, saying that something had happened in New York, an explosion, and they were trying to figure out what to do. 

Eventually, we were sent home to our families. I sat with my step-mom on the couch, as we watched the footage of the planes flying into the towers over and over. We sat and clung to each other as we watched the towers fall, people running from the wall of ash and debris. I remember that we didn't cry, as we were too in shock that it was even happening. "This can't be happening," we kept saying, "This just can't be happening." Then they announced the plane that hit the Pentagon. Some time after, my family visited a military friend in D.C., and we saw the repairs first-hand. Then, there was the plane in Pennsylvania, and people didn't know whether or not it was related, as rumors were coming out that the passengers has crashed it, taking the craft back from more hijackers. I still choke up at the memories, and tears still bead at my eyes when I see the footage. The memories of that world-altering day have faded little in the passing decade.

So much has happened since then. I had a step-brother that would be sent off to a war that he would not return home from. I watched my dad, retired military, talk of rejoining (and my step-mom say that she isn't a soldier's wife). I watched my mom and step-dad sit with letters from friends whose kids were heading off to a land they had never heard of. I watched newscasts of protests, and speeches, and guns and planes, and my mom saying that this was nothing like the Gulf War she was in, that this would not be a hundred day war. So much has happened since then. So much has changed.

I don't really think that our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are even about September 11th anymore. Not really. They are about other, more complicated things that I only superficially understand. So the death of Bin Laden does nothing for me. I only see one more figurehead that those we are fighting will rally behind in his martyrdom, making life harder for those serving on the other side of the world. I do not celebrate this death, nor do I find contempt in it. It merely saddens me, as I know that it is not an end by any means. If there even is an end at all.

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