Friday, May 6, 2011

Five Days

I'm disappointed in all of you. Really. All of you.

For all our differences, even given the constant, unending, incessant drumbeat of mutual partisan loathing that is the American political landscape, in which both sides are absolutely convinced that the other is hell-bent on willfully destroying the country beyond all hope of repair... even given that, it seemed a given that Osama bin Laden, at least, brought us together on one simple front:

We all wanted the guy dead, and weren't overly picky on how it got done. Just as long as it got done.

This had been a point of agreement ever since 9/11, perhaps even since the bombings of American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya that landed bin Laden on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List back in 1998. 13 years, we had been clear and simple on the idea that the untimely demise of Osama bin Laden would be a Good Thing. Full stop.

Then on Sunday night, we actually managed to kill him.

Here we are, a mere five days later, and it has become depressingly clear that bin Laden's death has not rallied the nation together at all. We have merely turned it into one more national flamewar.

Initially, the news was picture-perfect. Osama's dead; a Navy SEAL team got in and out in 40 minutes, DNA'ed him, took pictures, facial recognition, positive ID from a wife, no American casualties except for a helicopter that broke, no casualties outside the compound. In the coming days, we discover that we also snagged a cache of intel from the compound. What could be better than that?

Apparently, everything. In five days, not only have we not proven satisfied with the haul, we have managed to rack up a seemingly endless amount of complaints. Obama choosing not to release the proof-of-death photo is merely the beginning. Here is an incomplete list- INCOMPLETE- of the things I have seen brought up as complaints since the news broke (complaints do not reflect the opinion of Random Human Neural Firings):

*Without seeing the photo, how do we know he's really dead?
*Why did they bury him at sea so quickly? What are they hiding?
*He didn't deserve a proper Muslim burial!
*Why did we ease him into the sea? Just dump him!
*What do we care if the Muslim world would be angry with seeing the photo/desecrating the body? They get angry at everything!
*Killing Osama violated international treaties that say you can't kill a sovereign leader!
*We violated Pakistan's sovereignty!
*China is reverse-engineering the helicopter we left behind and blew up!
*Osama needed to be taken alive so he could stand trial!
*Osama was unarmed! Why'd we have to shoot him!
*We should have taken Osama's body, paraded it through the streets of New York, and displayed it as a trophy at Ground Zero as a warning to others!
*You gave him 'Geronimo' as a code name? That's offensive to Native Americans!
*The victims of 9/11 EARNED that photo!
*We need to see that photo as a reminder of the horrors of war!
*Osama's death changes nothing! He was just a figurehead!
*How dare Obama get credit! The credit should go to the soldiers!
*How dare Obama get credit! The credit should go to Bush!
*Osama was never charged with 9/11! How do we know he was actually responsible?
*Look how much it cost! It was too expensive!
*He's been dead for days/weeks/months/years and Obama's just trotting him out now so as to win re-election!
*You've made al Qaeda angry! Now they're going to retaliate!
*Oh, great, now we're under another terror watch! Say goodbye to what's left of your freedom, citizen!
*I don't trust that DNA test!
*Couldn't we have just blown up the compound with a drone?
*How dare you celebrate a man's death!

In five days, we've managed to tear into each other this much and more about something that we had been united about for a decade. Five days. In fact, call it four, because we were well into the flamewar yesterday too.

And while some of these complaints admittedly have merit, others are downright ridiculous. We have needless antagonization of the Muslim people; we have in the display-the-body-at-Ground-Zero demand a regression to the Roman Empire; we have the resurfacing of the 9/11 truthers; we have people who think a photograph is more trustworthy and less fakeable than a DNA test. And as far as that can't-kill-a-sovereign-leader treaty... al-Qaeda is not a sovereign nation. I've looked at a lot of maps and I can tell from the pixels that al-Qaeda doesn't show up on any of them.

But this is where we stand as a nation. We have reached a point where, given five days, we will gleefully rip each other to shreds over something we had previously been in agreement on for over a decade.

If the death of Osama bin Laden can't even remotely bring us together as a people for five days, is there anything that will?

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