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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
catvalente
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.


This post pleases me greatly.

I'm a "9/11 family" and I am not cheering about this.

Thank you.
I can't rejoice at any death. I'm just not wired that way. And what I see in this death is an opportunity for the west to look at itself and shape up, but which will probably turn into triumphalism, yet more violence on both sides and yet more international bullying by the US, the UK and their allies of countries poorer than themselves on some excuse about 'preventing it happening again' or some such. And that shames me, for my country (the UK) and those of others.

I'm quite capable of rejoicing at death, and heaven knows I can't say I'm unhappy with this one, but the celebrations do indeed seem misplaced here, and at least in some quarters the "triumphalism" is already surfacing. Let us hope wiser voices prevail.

::cue bitterly mocking laughter at the naivete expressed in that last sentence::

finally

(Anonymous)
It's refreshing to read a piece from someone with sense.

I agree with your post, and although I cannot deny a sort of satisfaction at his death, I still have this kind of empty feeling, and worry for what this may bring in the future.

I don't believe in the death penalty, and yet, I myself cannot begrudge the US for tracking him down and assassinating him. I understand the sentiment that he is a human being and human life is sacred, but when I juxtapose his mas murers in my mind with his own death, I unfortunately cannot bring myself to care enough to think about the ethics behind his targeted murder.

Still though, I share many of your sentiments about what it means to be a good American, and the fallacy behind the idea that we should be willing to die for anything.

Another quick thing, and this one is more aimed towards comments I have seen here: People bring up our celebration over his death in relation to the celebrations over 9/11 in Pakistan.

It's not that I don't see the parallel - I do, but... there is still a really significant difference, and I cannot deem hypocritical for people to rejoice the death of one very, very evil man, even though they did not approve of people celebrating 9/11. There is a huge difference between dancing in the streets over the death of one, and the death of thousands of innocent people.

And yet still, the overly zealous celebration is indicative of a kind of death culture that we have... I mean... I don't know. I'm so torn.

It's like, part of me almost doesn't even want to care to think at all about the sanctity of human life in regards to Osama because it feels disloyal to my country and to his victims, you know? I can't say for sure but I feel as though if anyone I loved had been a victim of 911, I have a knee-jerk angry reaction to anyone saying that he was still a human life and that he was still someone's son. Even though I understand their sentiments, so I"m not attacking anyone, I'm just saying...


Also just want to add real quick that it is unfortunate that we were in the Middle East so long under George Bush, where all the senseless violence and murder occurred... I think Obama proved that careful analysis could achieve a goal without the needless death. This should have happened a long time ago. Maybe then, it would not be so bittersweet for many.

Outstanding post, thank you.

I may have misinterpreted aspects of it, based on the other comments (thus inspiring, along with some other things I'd read on the web, my own hastily written, not nearly so eloquent or thoughtful post on the subject), but, yeah, a beautifully written post.

My sympathy, too, for all your suffering and that of your ex and all of your friends.

Mostly, osewalrus summed it up for me.

I don't have anything about bin Laden on my journal, nor do I intend to. I do have something about Joanna Russ. I am missing her. I am feeling the hole in the world where she should be, and I never met her.

My first reaction on hearing the news about bin Laden was, "Who? Oh, yeah, right." I'm not especially proud of that, you understand.

My second was a wistful, forlorn, naive hope that maybe this means that the airport security theater of inadequately tested backscatter radiation vs choosing to opt out and hoping to get a TSA worker with a professional attitude searching one will die as dead as bin Laden. But, I don't really think that will happen. For the forseeable future, I will have friends in other countries afraid to visit me here in the land of the free and the home of the brave because they might be treated like Peter Watts. I don't know if I'd be brave enough to accept dying if it meant no more of that shit, but, at the very least, I'd think long and hard on it. I don't think I'd be... brave enough? good enough? to accept the death of someone I love even for that.

I'm not sorry bin Laden's dead. I don't feel like dancing in the streets.

Still missing Joanna Russ.

Edited at 2011-05-04 06:10 am (UTC)

after my facebook feed was flooded with "osama's dead" celebration posts, i sort of checked out of the internet for a few days to figure out exactly how it was that i felt about the whole situation. now that i'm back, i found that you sort of summed it all up beautiful. you and greygirlbeast both have managed to put into words something i've been inelegantly trying to express.

thank you.