I have been trying to formulate my emotions regarding the death/murder/assassination/whatever you want to call it of Osama Bin Laden on Sunday night. I know I am not alone in this quest. I do not think I am there yet in terms of my formulation, but I still want to get a crack at writing through this.
I remember 9/11/2001 very well. I remember that I woke up at around 9:30 in order to eat my croissant with butter and jelly while watching TV and preparing for my first class of the day senior year, my 3rd period AP Econ class that I always arrived late to until the 3rd to last class of the year (!?) when the teacher said to me, "You always going to arrive late?"
I turned on and the TV immediately went to NY1, per usual. I saw smoke coming out of the towers. Something about a plane hitting it. I immediately though it was a small plane and some drunk dude doing it. Turned to channel 2, 4, 5 then 7. All over the news there. I guess it's a big deal. I got ready for school and drove over with my learner's permit in my Solid Gold 1995 Toyota Camry LE.
I walk in, late, and the first thing someone says is the towers have fallen. I disagree and state that I was just watching on TV and in no way did it look like they would fall. I was so wrong.
What followed that day was a blur of activity. Classes canceled. Worrying about my parents being in the UN. Cellphones being jammed. Watching more TV. Eventually getting through to my mom, passing the phone to a teacher so that they could get the permission to release me home.
What followed in the weeks and months ahead was a mixture of shock, sadness, anger, but also, in hindsight, not a full emotional understanding of the moment. That came later, much later as I grew from boy to man.
Through it all it was very clear to me that there was someone responsible for these vicious attacks and that someone was Osama Bin Laden. I just assumed that he would be caught and brought to "justice" (whatever that is) relatively soon. But as time went on and on and he wasn't caught, I began to grow very frustrated as did many others. Why the fuck were we going into Iraq in March of 2003 when Osama was not there? Why the hell was Bush connecting 9/11 to Saddam when everybody and their dog knew that Osama planned the attacks? My exasperation with the lack of progress on the OBL front was entangled with my very blatant acknowledgement of the vast incompetency that was present in the Bush administration, starting squarely with Dubya.
Make no mistake about it, Obama succeeded where Bush failed. But I digress...
So now the "job" has been done. A competent leader has come in and achieved a very clear and ambitious goal. "Justice" has been served.
Or has it?
I found out around 10:30PM on Sunday night thanks to the ping from my AP Mobile app. 3,520 days after that croissant morning. End of high school, all of college, all of my educational career. So many things have happened in the last 9.6 years, all under the specter of the bastardization of 9/11.
My first emotion was a bit of exhilaration. Relief. "It's-about-time"-ism. It has been way too long, he should not have escaped for close to a decade. I wanted to be back down in DC chanting U-S-A with the rest of the ecstatic crowd. I watched CNN until close to 1 that night. I was constantly updating my FB and my Twitter and looking for updates from my friends. I was yearning to SHARE this moment just as i SHARED the tragedy 9+ years ago. The act on 9/11 was not one for an individual, and thus this consequence is not either.
Next I was just happy. I love Obama and I loved the fact that he made this moment happen. It just proved to me once again what a capable and competent leader could accomplish. I loved his short speech and felt proud to be a (naturalized) American. I was happy because this proved that if you fuck with us we will, in due time, make you pay.
My next emotion was a weird one. I started to doubt my reaction. Why am I celebrating death? Am I sinking down to the level of OBL? Aren't we all? Why wasn't he captured alive and given due process? We are supposed to be America, the country that is the moral compass for the world. And yet we had just engaged in the same tactics that we were so appalled at 9+ years ago?
As these last few days passed I have read some articles, talked to some friends, but the formulation of my final emotion is not coming any easier. And perhaps, it never will. As an atheist who tries to live by the Golden Rule, I put myself in the shoes of someone who lost a loved one that day. What would I feel now if any of my parents had died on 9/11? Probably a lot of happy relief that "justice" was done. Who am I to tell them that their celebrations are "inappropriate."
In many ways 9/11 was possible due to the mindsets of several extreme Islamists. Why did they hate America so much, I always wondered? Are any of their points valid? Is that old adage "one man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter" true?
Of course it is. America has done some whack ass shit in the last century. We have killed innocents for no real reason, we have started wars for no just cause. When will the perpetuation of all of this violence end? Certainly not with the gruesome murder of one individual.
I don't want to dabble in the ideal. I don't want to sit here and complain that you don't fight violence with violence, that you don't go after someone and try and kill them if they brutally slaughtered your family. I refuse to climb on a pedestal that high. But all of these thoughts do have some sort of fundamental basis. The celebration of death is weird and disgusting if a crowd of extreme Muslims is doing it just as if a crowd of young Americans is doing it as well.
"Young" is the key word in that last sentence. Most of the kids who were out in front of the White House on Sunday night must have been 8, 9, 10 when 9/11 happened. But even if the range was from 8 to 18, 9/11 has cast a huge impenetrable shadow over our generation. Perhaps all of the celebration and exhilaration was not for the death of OBL, but for the hope that the shadow can finally be lifted. That we as a country do not have to live anymore under the stranglehold of that one day.
There will be many more emotions regarding 5/1 just as there have been re: 9/11.