News of Bin Laden's death leaves me empty of feeling. I do not rejoice. I have no urge to chant "U-S-A." Neither do I feel any compassion for the man. He was a terrorist. He was a theocrat. He belonged to a class of wealth and privilege that I can neither understand nor admire. I was not personally acquainted with him or any of his victims, so I have no reason to feel anything but a callous disregard for him and his family.
The media want me to feel something about this, I know. On one hand, I am asked to feel relief, some sense of vindication, and, on the other, I am warned that Bin Laden's death is not the end of terrorism (as if anybody could know that--ever) and that it may even spark a new wave of terrorist activity. If the crackpots are ready for a new wrong tree to bark up, the body's sea burial seems tailormade to invite speculation about a hoax and a coverup. Already, one young woman on Facebook, a "friend" of a "friend," suggested that the corpse should have been put on public view so that Americans might have "closure"--as if the probable desecration of the body would likely help open communication and heal old wounds, as if such a display would not encourage support for terrorism or provide a focal point for anti-American rage, as if we still live in a nineteenth-century America where we could prop the corpse up in a barbershop window with a sign on its chest: "Shot fer terrerizing."
It turns out that the terrorist was living in a million-dollar "mansion" (do mansions go for as cheap as a million in the Middle East?), not in a mountain cave. That fact should give pause to anyone tempted to revere Bin Laden as an ascetic saint or as a common man of the people. He belonged to a class of oil-rich snobs--the Bin Laden family were business partners with the Bush family. I doubt he was a man I might like to have had a beer with. That he was either a religious fanatic or one willing to use religious fanaticism to consolidate power is neither something I can respect nor something, as an American, I can pretend to be unfamiliar with--it's the world I live in every day--what else can I say?
Along with Bin Laden, three other people were reportedly shot and killed, supposedly trying to defend him. About their deaths I have the same icy indifference and absence of rejoicing I have about their leader's.
Do I feel justice has been served? Yes, I do. Bin Laden deserved to die. His sudden violent death saves the world years of intrigue in international courts and months of handwringing and whatever passes for debate in the American mass media. That he now has an official termination date diminishes his mystery somewhat, and that's a good thing too, though Marilyn, JFK, Elvis, and Kurt Cobain offer precedents for the kinds of speculation I can expect to hear over the matter for the rest of my life. (Do I deserve to be exposed to a lifetime of inane and invalid conjectures? No, I do not.)
Do I rejoice that justice has been served? Not really. My feelings, negative or positive, do not usually extend so far as to cover instances in which people simply get what they deserve. Is it a happy day when people get what they deserve? Sometimes. It is an uncommon day--that much I will say.