Yesterday’s big news, of course, was the report that Osama Bin Laden had been killed in Pakistan. Yeah, it was nice to finally be rid of that sinister character, but the best thing about the Osama-bliteration was that it finally pushed all those annoying stories about the over-hyped royal wedding out of the news.
The death of Bin Laden was such a huge event that it even made the sports pages. I read the following on ESPN’s website yesterday:
The “U-S-A, U-S-A” chants began at Citizens Bank Park (in Philadelphia) in the ninth inning, as the New York Mets’ Daniel Murphy batted as a pinch-hitter … the news spread and the pockets of chants continued, until the news had filtered throughout the place and it reached a crescendo later in the inning that Osama bin Laden had been killed by U.S. special forces in Pakistan. “I don’t like to give Philadelphia fans too much credit, but they got this one right,” Mets third baseman David Wright said following his team’s 2-1 win in 14 innings. “I guess it’s a proud moment to stand out there and you’ve got 45-50,000 (people) chanting. That was pretty special.”
“It’s probably a night I’ll never forget,” added Mets pitcher Chris Young, a former politics major at Princeton University. “I came inside and heard the news. There are some things bigger than the game and our jobs. I was inside. You could hear the crowd chanting, ‘U-S-A.’ And I got chills hearing that. It was a pretty neat atmosphere and place to be to get that kind of news. … It’s certainly a historic night and a great victory for the United States and the war on terrorism.”
There were also the predictable street celebrations around the states, particularly in places of 9-11 destruction like New York City and Washington, DC. People were seen waving flags, beeping horns, shouting “USA, Number One!” and singing patriotic songs. Naturally, there is a sense of relief, and maybe a feeling of closure, for those who lost loved ones in the 9-11 attacks. And certainly there is also some vindication that the America has finally slain their number one enemy. People are happy, as if they’ve just won that elusive big game, and I can understand that.
But frankly, I find this sort of celebratory reaction — whether in the streets or at baseball games — very disturbing. Ten years after 9-11 and many Americans still believe that this is simply a battle of good versus evil, us versus them. It might be a relief for many to know that Bin Laden has been turned into fish food, but to hail his death as a “victory” on the war against terrorism is very premature, if not naive. One article I read referred to Bin Laden’s death as a “psychological triumph,” and while that’s an apt description, I don’t think any sensible person believes that the West has suddenly and decisively defeated their nemesis.
It seems to me that the average American still not does realize that what has motivated these terrorists for so long is not, as that simpleton George W. Bush often said, because “they hate freedom,” but due to the various atrocities and underhanded practices that various US administrations and Western corporations have inflicted on other countries over recent decades. There is a lot of resentment and anger out there, and opening McDonald’s franchises and playing basketball games overseas is not going to help stem the tide. I’m not saying that any of the dubious actions of the US over the years in any way justifies the horrific death and destruction that Al Qaeda has sown, but it does show you that their ideology, and the support they’ve garnered, has roots in something.
I’ve been reading a lot of books the past few years about the history of American involvement in the affairs of other countries; everything from supporting dubious regimes and overthrowing democratically elected ones, to bombing targets that were no threat to anyone. I just finished Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein, a very revealing look about the shady side of American big business and government “intervention” overseas, especially over the past half-century. After reading that eye-opening account and books by John Perkins (Confessions of an Economic Hitman, Secret History of the American Empire), one feels that it would be wise to treat anything the American government does or says with a lot of suspicion if not distrust. You can call it blowback, revenge, just desserts, or whatever, but all that rah-rah patriotic and we’re-better-than-you bullshit only serves to inflame the anti-Western feelings that has been building up around the world. I detest terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda and I certainly won’t mourn the evil Osama, but America’s bullying and posturing bothers me too. What also concerns me is that so many Westerners — not only Americans — have never really tried to understand the mindset, or the motivation, of those who don’t want outsiders trying to “reform” them or bring “stability” to their country.
So now we watch America party on, clinging to the comforting notion that they are morally — and militarily — superior to other countries, and therefore justified in spreading their vision of Democracy and “freedom” to the rest of the world. In a dream last night (more of a nightmare, actually), I imagined that I was back in my home state of Florida, eating at a restaurant, seated next to two babbling morons. One guy looks at his cell phone and acts astonished as he reads a text message that just beeped:
Moron #1: Holy fucking shit, Bin Laden is dead!
Moron #2: Dude, you’re shitting me.
Moron #1: No, really. Some commando unit found him in Pakistan and just shot him to death.
Moron #2: Fuckin’ A, dude, we blasted his ass!
Moron #1: Hell yeah, good riddance to that sand nigger.
Moron #2: Dude! Goodbye to Obama!
Moron #1: It’s Osama, you idiot, not Obama.
Moron #2: Dude, same difference.
Moron #1: Yeah, whatever. This is a great day for America, man. Drink up. It’s time to party!
Moron #2: You got that right dude. Hey, got any weed?
Okay, that’s crude and tasteless, but I guarantee you similar conversations DID take place all over the country yesterday. And that’s part of the problem. Meanwhile, I suppose we need to brace ourselves for the next inevitable deluge: the flood of equally tasteless Bin Laden jokes that will soon be arriving in our e-mail inboxes. Another good example of American “culture.”