I don’t know if I have anything especially insightful to say about the capture and death of terrorist mastermind Osama Bin Laden. Most of the emotions I’m feeling are emotions that many of those of you reading probably feel as well.
For me, it all goes back to 9/11. I wasn’t at the Twin Towers site. I wasn’t even in the borough of Manhattan. I was about ten miles away from what is now called Ground Zero-having just gotten off the subway in the Bronx, headed to what I anticipated to be a busy day of selling new releases. So while I certainly wouldn’t compare the effects of that day’s events to what was felt by people who were directly on site, there are many things about that day that are clearer in my mind than things I did a week ago. I’ve recounted it in past posts on various blogs, but the things that stuck out then still do now: watching the TV coverage and seeing people actually jump to their deaths. Seeing the horror and fright on the faces of my friends and co-workers as they watched the coverage or tried (in vain mostly, since coverage was out) to reach friends or family who might be in the vicinity of the towers. Feeling that same fright as I wondered which of my family and friends might be in the vicinity of the towers. Worrying about my roommate at the time, who worked at a gym in the financial district as well as my aunt, who we’d picked up at her job in one of the towers many times when I was younger. Standing outside and looking at the air, which was filled with black smoke that was comprised of who knows what. That sick feeling of wondering what was going to happen next. Not to overdramatize, but parts of that day will stay with me for as long as I live, and going back and forth between President Obama’s speech to Facebook and Twitter brought up even more of those memories. So in the sense of “hey, we caught the bastard that (allegedly) did this to the WTC towers (and the Pentagon)”, I feel relieved. Not celebratory, mind you, but relieved that in some small way, a little bit of justice has been served.
Of course, Bin Laden’s capture doesn’t mean that things are all good. Just because folks say that Osama was the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks (and even with the video of him admitting it) doesn’t make it so-so there’s a little bit of cynicism on my part. Much more worrisome to me is the attitude some people have of the “war on terror” being over now. Bullshit. If anything, Osama’s capture and death will rile terrorist cells up, and we must be extra vigilant and extra careful because I’d say chances are relatively high that something can and will happen again. I certainly hope there’s not another attack, but common sense dictates that this is probably not the end.
Reading the reactions of people on various social networks gave me pause as much as it gave me comfort, not to mention that the reactions gave me plenty of food for thought. I was a bit taken aback by the number of jokes made at the expense of the situation-9/11 is one of those things that I feel is not a laughing matter no matter what. Perhaps you can share stories about a deceased relative or friend at their memorial service, but even after ten years, I can’t find a joke in something that caused the death of 3,000 people. Some people use humor to defuse tension, and I guess I understand that as well, and I also suppose that I understand that for most people, those events don’t strike as close to home. I’ve certainly heard from acquaintances and friends in the past who feel as though 9/11 was a New York-centric event and therefore didn’t matter much in their lives. Still-at the risk of sounding holier than thou, I don’t see where wisecracks (especially of the obnoxious variety often found on social networking sites) fit in to the equation. Not to say I didn’t make light of Obama’s speech on my own Twitter feed, but…whether due to ignorance, the passage of time, or distance, I don’t necessarily feel like the event was treated with the proper respect by some people.
So…what now? Who the hell knows? People are wondering if things will now go “back to normal”. I don’t think there is a “back to normal”. This is normal now. Security alerts, pat-downs when you go to airports, anti-Muslim sentiment (which I’m not condoning, in case there’s any confusion). That stuff is here to stay, at least for most of our lifetimes. The war in the Middle East that’s this nebulous thing in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Iraq? Any ending of the war will be symbolic-I don’t see U.S. troops pulling out completely any time in the near future and I feel as though even if there is a complete pullout, something will happen that will dictate that troops be mobilized in those areas again. However, I’m not a political analyst or someone with great knowledge of wartime strategy, so take my hypotheses with a grain of salt. Will this event bring our country together? Not as long as unemployment remains high, gas prices stay out of control, the divide between the upper class and the middle and lower class continues to widen and various internal tensions based on race, sex, and sexual orientation continue to simmer. Not while, on a person-to-person level, principles like respect, tolerance and basic human decency continue to be forgotten.
So, at the end of the day, the death of Osama Bin Laden is a symbolic “victory” for America. But don’t get it twisted, his actions changed life as we know it forever and it’s never going to change back.