In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to admit that when I first heard the news, on the way out of the 30 Seconds to Mars show with the girlies, the first words out of my mouth were Hell Yeah. It’s been interesting to see all my friends, real and virtual, reacting to news of the death of Osama Bin Laden, and also to see coverage of the celebrations that have followed in the US. It’s not quite right to say that I’m personally ambivalent. I feel strongly about this in at least two ways. On one hand, I grew up Quaker and now I’m UU, so I’ve got the whole “that-of-God-in /slash/ worth-and-dignity-of every person” thing reminding me that killing isn’t good. On the other hand, Fuck Yeah, Motherfucker. You fucked with the wrong superpower, and you got what you had coming to you. So I’m elated, and feel a little karmically guilty for being elated. Typical.

Thinking about this, one thing that keeps coming back to me is an experience from a few years ago. We went to a rodeo in Cody, Wyoming. Prior to starting the show, they did the typical sporting event patriotism stuff. A local girl rode into the arena carrying a big US flag. We sang the national anthem. And then we had a moment of silence for US service people deployed in the Middle East. I was initially all coastally jaded, yeah yeah OK…and then I noticed two things. First of all, that moment of silence lasted about three full minutes, not the 20 seconds you’d get at Fenway. And then I noticed that there were people crying, all over the little stadium. Not just kids and spouses of servicepeople. All kinds. Elderly people, grownups, teenagers, kids, the whole gamut. Dozens and dozens of people. Not just in the crowd. There were cowboys down on the field, a couple of minutes away from riding some pissed-off, mortally-dangerous 2,000 pound animal…hat in hand, weeping. Lots of them. This wasn’t the Superbowl, or even the Superbowl of Rodeo (no idea if such a thing exists.) This was just the little nightly rodeo the folks in Cody put on for themselves and whoever’s in town. Which means they’re probably having this amazing moment EVERY NIGHT.

So to all the folks posting MLK quotes in their Facebook statuses, threatening to take a break from the internet until this OBL thing blows over, first of all, you’re right. Well, half right. A human being died by another human’s hand, and that’s problematic. But I’ll also ask you to consider what it means to lots of other people, including the folks who’ve been crying at the rodeo every night for the last ten years.

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5 Responses to OBL

  1. Beeker says:

    Just to clarify. Are you assuming the people who have trouble with killing don’t “consider what it means to lots of other people, including the folks who’ve been crying at the rodeo every night for the last ten years”?

  2. Chris says:

    I have no idea what other people are considering. I just see that a lot of my friends’ first response to this on FB was to post that (excellent) MLK quote. If they did that to remind themselves of one of the more enlightened responses available to something like this, then well done. If they’re doing it to bitch about other people celebrating, then I hope they spend more time considering why they’re celebrating. I’m probably feeling a little scolded, which, as we know, I react to super well. There was a time when I’d say that MLK’s response was the one to aspire to, and that I hope someday I could be that enlightened. But I’m not that enlightened, and at age 46 it doesn’t look like I will be anytime soon.

  3. Chris says:

    Also, apparently the MLK quote wasn’t MLK. Or mostly wasn’t. Or something. http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/05/out-of-osamas-death-a-fake-quotation-is-born/238220/

  4. WFNYCraig says:

    This is just a stark reminder that the world is a complex place with few absolutes. I prefer to think killing OBL is a thing that is more good than bad. I say that fully realizing that something bad could result from it. Even if something bad does happen, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a dead terrorist is a bad thing.

    How much of this has to do with us communicating in the modern age on the Internet? It seems to me that the Facebook-ification and Twitter-ization of the world is killing subtlety and thoughtfulness. This comes from a guy who is overly active in both worlds.

    We’re all talking in blasts and bullet points. 1000 word essays are being condensed into snippets shorter than most titles. Instead of having conversations and trying to understand each other, we tend to be prejudicial snipers with very little willingness to accept that we might be wrong.

    And not to be a total jerk, because that MLK quote is a great one assuming you are referring to the “Returning hate for hate…” quote. If we are being totally honest though, isn’t it out of context? King was speaking about his minority group looking for rights and due acceptance as members of this nation under the Constitution. He was decidedly not applying his concept to a rogue middle-eastern terrorist outside our nation’s borders who decided to try and tear the nation apart with fear. Maybe Dr. King wouldn’t have been in favor of this mission to kill OBL, but you can’t take a quote from 1967 about Civil Rights and conclusively apply it to modern foreign policy.

    Well, you can, I guess. But it isn’t really MLK saying it as much as it is the person who copied and pasted it, right? Even the “enlightened” probably over-estimate their enlightenment by projecting their own opinions on historical figures. We know MLK was against Vietnam, and he almost definitely wouldn’t have supported Bush’s wars.

    He didn’t live to see the towers fall though, so there is no telling for sure what he would have thought.

    Now what would the tweet summary of my comment be? “Dude thinks MLK would have supported OBL assassination! (link)” RT RT RT RT RT…

  5. WFNYCraig says:

    And I had the wrong quote…

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