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Letters from Proxima Thule

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I've Got 30 Minutes and A Lot of Unpopular Opinions, So Let's Get Started
lost merry
I imagine we're not allowed to post about anything else today. Every post begins: Osama bin Laden is dead. Just like how 9/11 was the only acceptable topic for art after the event (I had someone scream at me on a message board for saying that poetry on other subjects was still something anyone should even try), if you don't post about this one you might as well put your blog away.

Well, I don't know. Seems like one more corpse on the pile to me. Sorry, but this war, this decade of war has made me cynical. It's made me not believe in just government on any level, and made me wary and gunshy of my fellow citizens' glee. If we're dancing in the streets either the Lakers won or someone's dead. I was told immediately after posting that it felt like a Pyrrhic victory to me, and tasted like ash, that I was in the minority and that for ALL servicemen and their families, ALL 9/11 and rescue workers families this is joy and closure and relief.

I'm still amazed, years later, how people are willing to speak for those sections of the population, even when and especially when they aren't part of those demographics.

I'm not a servicemember's wife anymore. But I was, during the commencement of hostilities in Iraq. He did two tours over there. And it changed the way I think about military action completely. I used to watch the news. I used to follow politics avidly. It's like a really cool game, see, where plays get called and victories happen and there are championships. It's less fun when an idle kick in that game could destroy your family. There is literally no political situation in which I feel the loss of someone I love is a good trade. For oil rights, for imperialist ambitions, for punitive measures, for revenge. I find it hard, even for "freedom" which is such a nebulous concept, to say sure, I and my loved ones will die for a minor tick in our governments win column. This is an unpopular thing to say--all Americans must immediately state their willingness to die for freedom. No hesitation. Are you some kind of communist, that you don't want to die for an ill-defined philosophical concept that has been used to justify everything wicked in the last decade? Do your colors run? Freedom means living. It means saying no when the man comes around. I do not locate my personal freedom in my ability to die for my government, or watch my loved ones die and play the good wife while they rot. (That used to play in my head every time they'd report someone of my husband's rank and branch dead. That he'd die and I'd have to look into a camera and say it was worth it, that I was happy to sacrifice him for my country. Dulce et decorum est.)

We love WWII because the cause was so obviously just, because you can't be a good person and say you wouldn't fight against an evil like that. It was so black and white on our side, and on our side so few died. (Our side meaning the lantern-jawed John Wayne Greatest Generation constantly canonized soldiers who strode in late to the graveyard that was Europe. Compared to Jewish, Russian, Roma, and other casualties, our losses were minimal.) We felt so strong. In some ways I think we're always trying to recapture that feeling of being a country of superheroes. With every war we invoke that one, we hope it will be that good.

Like any addict, we're always looking for a fix as good as the one we remember from the early days. The one that said to our bones: this is the stuff. Anything, anything, to ride this wave forever. And it always takes more and more to feel that way again.

And we got a good hit last night. Someone who was a villain, who we could hate without reservation, who looked bad and scary and did bad things and we can just ignore all the parts where we used to help him out, and still are bestest BFFs with his home nation that helped him out. Nevermind that stuff. It's the sweet humors of revenge and justice--not justice in whatever fruity intellectual way you lefties mean it, but justice meaning we got ours and we were right. That's what justice means now.

So, yeah. If people get closure from it, great. I'm not getting that feeling from the dancing in the streets crowd, but ok. I think when you genuinely lose, getting a tiny measure of blood doesn't erase all that much pain. But I wouldn't speak for people who were actually in the city on the day, who lost their folk. I wouldn't even speak for military members and their families. I am not one of their number anymore. I can only speak for myself and say that death is death is death, and by any measure, we have let enough of it as a nation to balance out 3,000. But of course blood can never be balanced. That's the fallacy. It will never be enough. If hundreds of thousands in Iraq and Afghanistan wasn't enough, nothing will ever be. We will wake up tomorrow and need more, because even this one man is only enough for a moment. It's too good a gig for a government. You can get away with so much if people are both afraid and hungry to feel strong. Who could give that up?

I'm tired, is all. I'm tired of my cynicism never being quite enough to keep up with current events. I'm tired of arguing with people on the internet about how I am allowed to feel in order to be a proper citizen. I'm tired of death being the currency we buy our lives with. I'm tired of the 21st century, which shit on everyone's doorstep right out of the gate, and kept on coming.

I don't begrudge anyone their own emotional response. I've just had too many over the last ten years to be able to summon up very much more than ashes and bile this time.

If it helps, my reaction to the news is pretty much about the same as hearing someone put down a particularly vicious dog... I am neither happy about it (because the day I am happy at murder is the day I turn in my human card), nor am I particularly saddened. It just is what it is, another body in a war that's been going on between humans since about the time someone figured out how to beat someone else to death with a stick. No more, no less.

Yeah, that. I can't be sorry about it, not in the least. And yet, the enthusiasm the man's death is inspiring I find... worrisome. I guess if it brings closure to those who need it, well then, that's a useful side effect of the necessary. The rejoicing, though... it just feels like a vicious and miserable cycle.

It's not cleanly comparable, but it reminds me of the dancing in Palestine after 9/11. A people rejoicing in lives taken. A feeling that "he/she/they got what was coming to them". We were so outraged then. And yet, here we are again.

Although I'm not American, this post says absolutely everything that I've been thinking (and far more eloquently) every time someone asked what I thought about the news of his death.

A very good post.

[Re WWII, how many died on "our side" depends on how you construct "our side". This is not a comment on your post, but on a fight I decided not to have with one of my grad students when it became clear that in assessing the pros and cons of occupying powers in her country, she wasn't including Jews as "on our side". I find that when people talk about "our side" in the second world war, they forget all the people who died trapped in occupied countries.]

They also seem to forget the Americans that the American government stuck in internment camps because they had too much of an accent, or maybe were born on the other side of the Pacific, or had parents who were...

Yeah. This, this, and this. My first response was actually, "He was still alive? Wasn't he staggering along on a kidney dialysis machine like eight years ago? Huh."

Also that I found it unnervingly skeevy when CNN showed mobs howling the national anthem outside the White House. I mean, if that's catharsis, fine, but it made me uncomfortable deep down in my gut-level regions.

I am also existing in this place.

I'm a servicemember's brother, and I still woke up this morning knowing that he is still going to war in Afghanistan, and so I'm not sure how in the hell I'm supposed to feel happy.

Yes, it's a promise kept, but how many promises had to be broken to keep it? How many of those were things I cared about so much more than seeing a head on a pole?

Just... argh. I want to post about it, but don't see how I can without spending hours writing it, and then pissing off 90% of my LJ friends.

But if "justice" means always vengeance and never victory, if it means dancing on graves and screaming "USA! USA! USA!", if it means torturing innocents because they look just brown enough to have information we can use to our own ends?

Then I'm not sure what we want it for.

I served in the army, Vietnam era. Wars are not fun.

Maybe an unpopular opinion, but I'm with you on this. I can't bring myself to be happy about someone dying, no matter how awful they were. Perhaps I would feel differently if I were one of the people directly affected by his actions, but I'm not, and the whole issue is so complex that it doesn't feel right to me to be gleeful about it. I was surprised, because I used to be someone who was comforted by these acts of 'rightness', but maybe I've just had enough time to consider how many people who mattered to me in some way whose deaths were meted out by people who were sure they were doing the right thing at the time and, in some cases, were celebrated for it.

I'm grateful for any peace it brings, but I'm not happy about the loss of another life.

I wrote something similar on FB, and was pleasantly surprised to get nothing but agreement in return.

I am confused and alarmed by the large number of people who think this means it's over.

It's not over. My husband has compared it to slaying what you thought was a dragon, and discovering it was instead a hydra.

Even more than that, though... who's going to be next? Where will the next villain target appear, and who will it be? I don't think there are any leaders able or willing to try and stop this headlong rampaging charge.

I'm mostly numb. And afraid. And it's not real, none of it.

Nandemonai, I shall post as I please. I shall watch Revolver again and I shall drink coffee as I do. I shall play cute flash games on my phone.

Not to say ignorance is bliss, far from it. Certainly I have emotional and intellectual responses to this event, but I shall not display them publicly. I do not wish to be a part of this. I do not wish to engage in any manner with the emotionally charged and polarised conversation now underway. I have left the room, so to speak, or perhaps more accurately I have put on headphones.

High-five, sentiment cousin. I'm having tea and watching old Doctor Who episodes, but those phone games, man. They'll get you every time.

I spent part of my morning watching anti-bullying PSAs from Ireland. I wish I'd seen something like them when I was in high school.

Right on.
It just feels so damn empty.
I'm not going to get to greet friends coming off their plane again, I'm still going to have to get the "patdown" whenever they get the BWI machine fixed and there's still so much hostility and fierceness in the US that isn't going to go away. There's still this Oceania war.

So yeah. Empty.

Thank you. I was just writing about how I've been feeling ambivalent, and I think you nailed the reason on the head. It feels empty.

I'm not sure how I feel about the whole thing. Mostly ambivalent, I guess. Death is death as you say. He's dead, but I know the war is not over and there is no clear resolution in sight.