“It is missing the point to think that the martial art is solely in cutting a man down. It is not in cutting people down; it is in killing evil. It is the stratagem of killing the evil of one man and giving life to ten thousand.” – Yagyu Munenori, The Life Giving Sword
How do you define a decade? By committing an act of far-reaching, shocking, ruthless violence.
I hadn’t had such a strange mixture of surprise, relief and hope in a long time, but it was strangely mixed with things like skepticism, sadness, and trepidation.
I was trolling Facebook when I saw the news that Osama bin Laden had been killed by U.S. forces (and what does that say about the state of culture, news, and the internet, not to mention my own habits that I saw it on Facebook, but that’s another essay or three).
It is safe to say that a single act of terrorism defined an entire decade in the United States. It sparked two major wars (perhaps it could be argued that Bush would have gone after Saddam Hussein anyway) that devastated two countries, instigated the expenditure of untold billions of dollars to kill brown people all over the Middle East, instilled a climate of fear that has lasted–and was perpetuated by folks invested in using it–for years, turned one of our chief forms of transportation into a fascist police-state that is still cranking up the pressure–and one that, I might add, many of us willingly submit to. Would we have stood for children and grandmothers being frisked in an airport thirty years ago? Would we have said, “Well, I suppose that’s OK.” Not a fucking chance.
Other regions have other catastrophic events that define their decade–countries affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, Japan’s earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis of 2011, genocides in Sudan and Rwanda–but September 11, 2001, was certainly the single greatest event that shaped the American 2000s.
The surprise I felt came from several directions. Of course, the news came completely out of nowhere for a guy like me who lives life mostly in over-drive and doesn’t take time to follow the news all that much.
But I didn’t feel like cheering, or celebrating. I hoisted a beer to SEAL Team Six and the C.I.A. folks for a job well-done, but cheering reminds me too much of all those assholes in the Middle East who were cheering when the Twin Towers came down. I like to think that we’re better than that–that I’m better than that. Maybe I’m not.
Nevertheless, I was happy that he’s dead, just as I’m happy that Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Pol Pot, and Jeffrey Dahmer are dead. The world is a better place without them in it.
I had to shoot my dog once, and it was one of the most painful, horrendous things I have ever done. But it had to be done.
I was saddened by the necessity of what had to be done. We have lived through a decade of war, death, fear, hatred, presidential deception, and political squabbling. Untold thousands are dead, all because one man and his ignorant, religious sycophants decided to bring war to U.S. soil. We took that war, and we ran with it. “You might hit me first, but I’m sure as hell going to hit you last.”
Then, three minutes later, the conspiracy-minded part of my brain kicked in. It has long wondered if the U.S. might have had him on ice for several years, and I’m distrustful enough of our own government to believe–strongly–that we are not above such things. The greatest terrorist in history has a considerable amount of political capital attached to him, like a cloud of electrons around a plutonium nucleus, and his skin made a mighty fine drum for George Bush and his fear-mongering brethren to thump on their way back into re-election in 2004.
The skeptical, critical-minded chunk of my cortex finds itself wondering at the timing. Amid natural disasters both national and global, the continuing Great (Re)Depression, incessant mind-numbing political bickering in this country, and a president who’s up for re-election next year, we get a message of success. The clamor to take credit will be mind-boggling over the next few weeks and again next year at election time.
The Kennedy-assassination-fueled, death-of-Marilyn-Monroe-questioning, UFO-research-and-misinformation-annoyed, Saddam’s-WMD-fiasco-outraged part of me wonders at how quickly the DNA match was confirmed, and at why they buried Bin Laden’s body at sea. Certainly convenient.
I’m sure the well-crafted justifications/explanations will be along shortly.
There are pacifists and peaceful souls, the “why can’t we all just get along” folks, who will decry any killing, and they’ll cite Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., and wouldn’t it be nice if the world worked that way? But a world without violence will never exist, because threat of violence is all that some people understand. A colony of well-meaning, anti-war pacifists is doomed to be wiped out if some mean dudes come along and say, “Hey, get off that land/oil/water/gold/religious icon! We want it!” BONK! Drag-drag-drag. No more pacifists.
A police force is a bunch of well-meaning folks sponsored by the government and charged with keeping social order, and violence will always be the ultimate enforcement of legal/governmental/personal will.
My feeling of trepidation comes from the fact that Bin Laden’s followers are still out there, alive and well, and scheming more hatred and death against people they don’t like. And from my well-developed skepticism that the now-ingrained paranoia and culture of fear will go away anytime soon.
Maybe we can relax a little. There are still ignorant, fanatically religious assholes who want to destroy Western Civilization, and may they meet their doom at the business-end of a bullet or when their explosive vest blows up prematurely. But maybe we can scale back the vengeance and paranoia that consumed the 2000s. Now maybe someday soon we can go the airport without fear of our six-year-old kids and grandmothers being strip-searched.
So how about it, folks? How about we get rid of the ridiculous Threat-Level: Orange-Forever Doomsday meter? How about we close the book on fear, and go about our lives, and give some money to help the Japanese, and the Sudanese, and the people in Alabama, and the weird lonely guy next door, and our education system (so that we don’t raise our own crops of ignorant, fanatically religious assholes like those Bin Laden and company so astutely took advantage of), and to send some adventurous souls to the Moon and Mars, rather than making more bombs and bullets and hardware to kill brown people?