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.