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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.

(Deleted comment)
But hearing about people who were not directly affected taking such joy in his death is really angering and disturbing to me. Maybe it's petty and twisted, but I can't help but feeling "what are you so flippin' happy about? he didn't try to kill YOU."

This comes close to describing my feeling (although I did not live through the 9/11 attacks as you did). It's like... the difference between cheering the end of a war and cheering when your team wins the playoffs. 9/11 was not a sporting event and neither is this. For people to celebrate as if it were, trivializes the real suffering and death involved.

It's not cultural appropriation, but... maybe it's something akin to it. If that makes any sense?

"If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori."

I think Wilfred Owen is just as relevant today as he was in WWI. Maybe even more so, because we should have learned our lesson by now.

The problem is that the staunch anti-war proponents dominated the political scene for the next two decades to the point where they pretty much let Hitler rearm Germany and invade Czechloslavakia without protest.

I want to hug your anger and carry it around like a rolled-up carpet; huge, unwieldly, but rough and necessary.

You aren't the only one who feels the way you do.

Thank you for this. I've been baffled by the celebrations, not wanting to tell others how to feel, yet not quite able to grasp why I'm not feeling it.

Yes. I saw it mentioned on Twitter, watched the announcement from Obama so I’d know what he said, thought “it’s an important symbolic milestone, but this is nowhere near over”, and went back to what I was doing.

Well said.

This is also Yom HaShoah and the ironic thing about that is that it doesn't really matter that Hitler is dead. He still managed to lead a nation into a genocidal crusade that murdered six million jews for the sake of murdering six million jews (and 5 million others - give or take - that figure is in debate)

Thank you. Nothing more to add.

Unpopular opinion maybe, but one I share. Thank you for saying it.

I found a Mark Twain quote that almost sums up my feelings:

"I’ve never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure."

I just- I can't understand the jubilation in celebrating death. Especially because we condemned people in the Middle East for it after 9/11 and now we're doing the same thing (okay, only sorta, but still). They felt that 9/11 was a warranted attack through the propaganda they'd seen, and our memory is so awfully selective. Remember when the Taliban offered to give him to us and we said "No, thanks."?

Not to mention I feel like one of very few who remembers that he was a figurehead, but most likely was not still super active as a true leader in any way. He's a symbol. It does nothing in the war effort except provide closure to many.

The only thing I really liked last night was when the President reminded us that this is not a war against Islam. And even then I'm sad he even had to say it at all.

Basically: I'm conflicted and now I'm going to turn away and concentrate on graduating from college in two weeks instead.

I don't remember that...can you explain further?

Personally, I'm thrilled every time I read an LJ post or tweet that's not about this. I haven't dared to look at Facebook.

I imagine we're not allowed to post about anything else today.

Today, I'm doing my very best to focus on the Canadian elections. I'm keeping my attention tracked on the CBC, which acknowledges and explores what took place last night, but refuses to overdwell. It's my hope that I won't be alone down here.

Former service member, former military family member and 9/11 Pentagon witness.

You summed up pretty much how I feel with this:

I'm tired of death being the currency we buy our lives with.

My friends are still in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

I'm tired. Been tired since 2004. I just want it to end. OBL's death did not accomplish that. It just made me feel, like you full of ash and bile.

Edited at 2011-05-02 06:28 pm (UTC)

Yeah. And then there's the people telling me that I don't get to have feelings at all, because I'm Canadian, not American. As if I don't have loved ones in America. As if my country did not stand still with yours, en masse, to watch the towers smoke and crumble. As if my country has not been pulled in dragging lock-step with yours, despite the very best attempts of me and mine and those like us, so that we have not gone quite so far, thank god, but are still nevertheless changed from the Canada I used to know and love. As if America did not carry other nations down, kicking and screaming, with it. We were told we had to stand with you or face the consequences, and so we did stand with you, and Canadian kids are still out there dying right next to the American ones, even now, but we don't get to open our mouths because it didn't happen to us.

Makes me want to spit.

Edited at 2011-05-02 06:31 pm (UTC)

One of my best friends, who is extremely intelligent and espousing many of the same feelings I am*, keeps being told to shut her hole because she is from the UK. That's another reason I'm actually starting to get so mad at my own country today. They do not have the right. He helped plan inspire many evils all over the world, it's not just America that sees justice today. Obama was good enough to remind us how many thousands of innocent Muslims across the globe he's murdered as well.

*Namely: deep conflict and a desire to remind everyone that he was merely a figurehead.

Great ObOsama post.

I had to resist the urge to respond to that comment on FB last night. It was one of those "Someone on the Internet is Wrong" moments for me.

I don't believe you're in the minority -- and even if you were, it's probably not small minority and it's certainly not a silent one.

Funny the things you learn about "minority" when you become part of one. (Think Wisconsin politics.) People like to throw the word around, as if it means only a very small percentage of people agree with you, when in reality it's only a very small percentage separating you from the "majority."