I think that the ubiquitous Osama updates on facebook are the only thing I have ever seen trump, in sheer volume and magnitude, all of the "I'm in Utah, it's snowing, and I'm bitching about it," updates.
According to Wolf Blitzer, before it was officially announced, it was going to be one of those things that when people heard it, they would always remember precisely where they were, forever till infinity.
Sometimes when I am laying in bed, trying to fall asleep, and unable to fall asleep, I look at facebook for a moment on my phone, in hopes that I will grow utterly bored, and accidentally fall asleep. It was about 12:30, and I was noticing an abnormal amount of "AMERICA!" and, "I'm proud to be an American!" and, "Why is one network spelling it 'Usama,' while another is spelling it 'Osama?" updates.
I checked the NPR app I have on my phone and, sure enough, uncle Osama had been dispatched to, presumably, the deepest pit of a ham lined hell, via a bullet through the orbitofrontal cortex.
I think my main reaction was something like, "Huh. I guess they got him." And then I rolled over, and promptly fell asleep.
When I woke up the next morning, or "The Morning After" as I have named it, facebook was absolutely inundated with American pride, and lots of digital interweb fist pumping. As one would expect, the conservative radio waves were a similar frenzy of chest pounding and double high fives, in spite of the fact that it was that commie bastard Obama that finally got him.
Which, I guess, I understand. America has been looking for Osama for a pretty long time. A lot of people have died to come to this culmination. But I guess the thing that sort of makes me feel weird, is the absolute frat-party-douche-bag atmosphere that was outside the White house, and elsewhere. Call me un-American, but I feel like all of the cheering, and dancing in the streets, shooting silly string, and getting wasted is a weird way to respond to a death, regardless of how vile and wretched the deceased happened to be.
I didn't know a single person who died in 9/11, so maybe that is what makes me lack the instinct to want to tear off my shirt, pour beer all over myself, and run around in a circle with roman candles in each hand. But I don't think so. I think that if, God forbid, my mother, or father, or a sibling was horribly murdered by someone, and 10 years later that person was executed (which I would actually oppose, because I think the death penalty is wrong, which is an argument for another day) I think going crazy in the street is the last thing I would be doing.
I realize it would be a different situation, because there would not be a massive, national, collective investment in the death of someone related to me. I think, however, that the principle is the same. It seems like the somber satisfaction and relief that comes with justice, is very distinct from the jubilation that comes from revenge. Justice incites closure; revenge is rarely satiated.
There was also an element on facebook that was advocating the idea that maybe being totally stoked on the death of a (albeit terrible) person was, perhaps, wrong. And the more I thought about it, the more I started coming to a similar conclusion. I do, however, think that looking upon Americans with disdain for celebrating is too idealistic at best, and at least a little unfair. I understand the country's emotional investment in this. I think rather than saying that American's reactions are wrong, I would rather say that I wish they were different.
I don't expect everyone to think like I do, or feel like I do. Everyone is different, and we all have distinct world views. I saw this quote pop up several times: "I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy.* Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out… hate: only love can do that." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
Did something need to be done about Osama Bin Laden? Absolutely. Was the best answer killing him? It's hard to say. But was the best response, upon his death, one of exuberant, euphoric celebration?
I think we are better than that.
* I found out this evening that the part of the quote proceeding the * is actually falsely attributed to MLK. Jessica Dovey actually said the first part, and followed it with the MLK quote. Somewhere amidst the ka-trillion reposts on twitter and fbook, the quote marks were shifted to give the impression that MLK said the whole thing. Which, ultimately, is irrelevant anyway. I think it would be in the spirit of something he would say, and it is a powerful idea regardless of who said it.