I had planned to write something entirely different this week but then it happened. “It” is of course the death of Osama Bin Laden. Since then I’ve been completely obsessed with the story. I just couldn’t write about anything else.
I found out about his death like how I get all my breaking news these days, through a combination of Twitter and Facebook. I was so shocked by what I read that I had to rewatch Treme because I had no idea what happened during the last twenty minutes even though I watched it. Finally, the phantom menace that has haunted the United States and the world for the last ten years is dead.
I quickly turned to CNN to watch the breathless coverage of the day’s events. As always with the 24 hour news cycle and the need to fill air, CNN jibber jabbered about what little they knew while waiting for President Obama to make a statement. Would it kill CNN’s anchors to stop giving everything “context” before we know the details? They went on for an hour essentially repeating the same four details they did know over and over and over. I’m glad the small window for preparation didn’t give CNN time to indulge their technology fetish or bring on their army of 1,000 “analysts”.
Then Obama, after making us wait for an hour suffer through CNN analysis, coolly strode to the podium and in classic Obama style gave us the how and why details. I’ll admit when Obama first burst on the scene I was very skeptical of him. Now I’m totally in the tank for the guy. I don’t agree with his every policy and I think he gives Republicans and the lily-livered Democrats too much space to bicker, but overall he’s doing a good job. Besides there’s something great about having a president who speaks in complete sentences and isn’t flirting with every woman in the room.
Anyway, after the president spoke and more babbling from CNN on what this all means, crowds of people showed up at the White House to… cheer? I guess patriotism rides again in this country. I understand the cathartic release that Bin Laden’s death has given a spooked American populace but the celebratory nature of what CNN was showing struck me as odd.
I lived and worked in DC on September 11th and will never forget being the only person on the Metro at McPherson Square during the evening rush hour. If you know the DC metro area you know how surreal that is. I remember the fear of the hearing the Pentagon had been hit. The information fog that descended on DC that day left us all confused and scrambling to contact loved ones. In the days that followed I remember walking to my job and passing armed National Guardsmen standing on the corners. It is time period I don’t even like thinking about.
So when I heard Bin Laden was dead a wave of relief coincided with the shock that swept over me. Hearing that he died didn’t get me out of my seat to cheer death though. Instead it took my mind back to that scary, confusing day and the thousands who lost their lives. Honestly I hoped he’d be captured and jailed. Life in solitary confinement in a super max prison would be a punishment worse than death for a person like him. That’s just me being a staunch anti-death penalty proponent, I guess. On the plus side maybe we’ll soon see the end of the wars and modified police state we currently live in. His death gives me hope that the new normal will give way to the old normal.