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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.

I've been a firefighter/medic since just before 9/11. I... Don't even get me started on that subject, because I lost brothers and sisters in that mess. My best buddy lost his cousin in the second tower. I don't like the people who view folks in my profession as being heroes, because of our losses. I hate the people who say it was ten years ago and we don't need to remember.

But this isn't closure. We've been chasing a ghost for years, he's probably been a ghost for years, and this tastes sour, of improved ratings in the face of a new election around the corner. And as someone who was there for 9/11, this sure as all get out is NOT closure. Bring our troops home and stop meddling, and maybe that'll be closure.

Hmmm. I can be, and am, glad that he's dead. I am not dancing in the street or crowing or any of the other over-the-top reactions.

I am just pleased that one more of the hate-mongering, death-teaching, backwards-looking people in the world is gone.

I don't agree with a lot of the politics surrounding his life and death, nor do I agree with many of the other political events and sociopolitical things happening in the world today.

However, as I would feel relief that a rabid, aggressive dog were killed, I feel relief that he is.


I find it strange and incomprehensible that a death of one person can bring such an exhiliration to a whole nation.

Well said. I am again horrified at the idea of people celebrating anyone's murder, and don't much care if this murder is called war or counter-terrorism, or whatever. The US is a remarkably blood-thirsty nation.

Thank you so, so much. I find myself much more disappointed over all this than relieved that a threat is gone. I linked to this blog post since it captured all the nuances of how I'm feeling today.

Some of my same family members who vilify Westboro Baptist are the ones posting crude photoshopped images that seem incredibly disrespectful. I just hoped we were all better than this.

Thank you. Its so nice to know I'm not alone in how I feel about this. And I'm so grateful that you have the ability to put into words (eloquently!) the things I think but do not know how to express.

Yes. This. I feel sort of heavy and tired and sad today, because of the way the US has reacted to Bin Laden's death (or at least, because of the way that select Americans have reacted and have been portrayed in the news and online). I am getting tired of all this near-meaningless back-and-forth killing-and-crowing.

Thanks for posting.

Thank you. I haven't got anything more articulate to say at this time.

My managing editor was on Facebook last night gleefully advocating desecration of the body while expressing his regret that the method of death was not designed to inflict maximum pain.

Me, I can't feel anything right now, other than wondering who else I respected is going to make me question their sense of proportion and propriety. So Thank you, for an unpopular opinion expressed with both those qualities.

When I was in High School, I sat in the front row of my World History class. My teacher was very conservative, and he had a photo of Osama Bin Laden with a target printed on his face that hung right in front of me. Every single day, I sat in that class and looked at that picture, and rather than teaching me to hate the man, the biggest impact that experience had on me was the realization of how uncomfortable I am with looking at a target over a human being's face.

Basically, I agree that bloodshed begets bloodshed.
But I think my main reaction will merely be the reaction of the cowardly: I will make jokes about it.


Maybe I'm biased, as I am evangelical about the importance of that subject, but a teacher of history should know better.

Thanks for posting this. I thought I was alone in getting frustrated at all the coverage and the cheering and the rioting and such. I just ... it's been ten years.

This is America. Sure we declared him a persona non grata but I'm still not going to feel awesome that we unilaterally shot someone without a formal trial. I'm not going to celebrate and cheer and be happy because we killed someone. That's not what execution is about, it's not what war is about, it's not what being a good human being is about, and every time some intellectual or sports pundit or cartoonist starts chanting USA I just want to scream. It makes me sick.

I made my BF turn off sportscenter because somehow a little girl that died but liked baseball is the appropriate thing to be covering in the middle of the NFL draft.

I just, argh. Thank you for letting me know I'm not alone <3

Thank you for writing this. I tried to explain to my husband last night that I could feel no real pleasure at the fact that people were celebrating the death of another human being. Its not in me to celebrate death. I wish that we didn't live in a world where people celebrated death and war rather than life.

This entire day has been rage-inducing for me. Everyone expresses catharsis differently, and everyone reacts differently, and those reactions are all valid.

I agree with you that it's a Pyrrhic victory. We have lost so much--and by "we" I mean "the world," not just "America." The aftermath of 9/11 isn't the only thing that turned American politics into its current bloody, zero-sum game, but it sure didn't do anything to slow the descent.

I just look at everything the US has done in the past ten years re: al-Qaeda and the aftermath of 9/11, and I wonder: this is really all that the "greatest nation on Earth" can put together? Violence, slaughter, rape, pillage, and wanton destruction? That's what we've got? That's not great, in my opinion. It's shallow and petty and vicious. I understand the impulse for vengeance; my parents were working downtown in DC on 9/11 and but for the kindness of the gods, either of them could have been in the Pentagon that morning. I remember grieving, and being angry, and wanting the people who did it to be punished--but that's not what America did.

Mostly I just look at this, and it makes me so very, painfully tired and sad. It feels like humanity as a species is sliding backward, not moving forward, at least here.

Thank you so, so much for this post. My parents (both former Marines) and I all feel the same way. We were talking about it this morning and were having a hard time putting it into words, so when I came across your post I read it to my mother and it made her cry. You'd put what she was feeling into words exactly, and she wanted me to tell you thank you for her.