Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Score One For The Good Guys

At 1:30 pm MDT, last Sunday afternoon I was enjoying some dutch oven potatoes, sausage with brown mustard and a fresh scone at a road side cafe in Mt Carmel, Utah following a fantastic weekend of Canyoneering in Zion National Park. I share this because at that exact time in Abbottabad, Pakistan a Navy Seal had the forehead of Osama bin Laden in his cross hairs and pulled the trigger ending the life of the world's most notorious villain. And it's been a surreal couple of days since.

Let me share a few observations:

I, like most Americans (I think), kind of forgot about bin Laden. Of course 911 is forever seared into my soul. And the fact that we let him escape in Torah Bora nearly a decade ago bugs the hell out of me. But I have never stayed awake at night thinking we had to get him. I was confident the right people were on the job, doing everything possible to bring him to justice, but I kind of just assumed he would die of renal failure in a cave somewhere. I hadn't really considered the possibility of his death at the hands of American forces in so long, I was surprised at just how good it has made me feel when it actually happened.

And I make no apologies for feeling good about this. And no else should either.

Let me be clear. Throughout my medium sized lifetime, I cannot think of another piece of breaking news that has ever made me feel so energized and uplifted. And I don’t feel good because my blood lust for the Terrorist Devil has been satiated. In fact, I wouldn’t say that I hate bin Laden at all. He was the embodiment of all that is evil in the world and he deserved to die. But I don’t think I feel any actual sense of personal animosity toward him. My blood pressure wouldn't spike when his name was mentioned. I do not have a full back tattoo that says "Die, Osama! DIE!"*. He had become another name on the news.

The reason I feel so good about his death, is because this is an incredible victory for America. And regardless of your particular political persuasion, that is a very good thing. After years and years of bleak, depressing headlines grinding on our national identity, I'm sick of feeling bad about my country. And I'm not talking about patriotism. Patriotism is a loaded word that has been weaponized over the last decade. No, I'm talking about our collective self esteem. We needed a win to break through the malaise of partisan sniping, crippling gas prices, seemingly endless unemployment not to mention the nuclear meltdown, civil war shit storm that is the rest of the world.

And make no mistake, this is a big win. It makes me feel good to be an American. Not in some cheap, dick wagging, Toby Kieth kind of way. But in a well deserved, hard fought, V Day kind of way. The good guys won.

Everything about this story is perfect. Bin Laden didn’t choke on a goat shank and drop dead. A drone didn't anonymously and instantaneously incinerate him. Our guys killed him. And he died knowing it. We stormed his mansion where he was hiding behind a female human shield and asked him "Are you Osama bin Laden?" "Yes" BANG!

You couldn’t have written a better script. All movies this summer will suck because they can in no way be as cool as reality.

It’s not often that citizens of our great and diverse nation spontaneously take to the streets and celebrate. Dancing, singing, hugging strangers, pumping fists, climbing street lamps to cheer on an ever expanding crowd of people; I’ve never seen anything like it. And we reacted this way, not out of hatred for our enemy, but out of pride in our victory. And make no mistake, it is OUR victory. Rich, poor, black, white, left, right, we all won when Sunday’s breaking news was announced. That is why you saw crowds of strangers all over this vast, cynical nation stand together and with complete fervent sincerity sing patriotic songs in a gloriously off key celebration.

Like most people I felt the urge to share this moment of history with my assorted friends throughout the different stages of my life via Facebook. It’s a strange thing to observe the various thoughts from your life's collection of acquaintances as you anonymously eaves drop on their points of view. I posted a snarky little joke about bin Laden being surprised to find himself in hell that I ripped off of an Onion article from nine and half years ago. Most posts were of a similar joking, celebratory tone. But throughout Monday, an interesting thing happened. Several of my facebook friends expressed apprehension about the morbid nature of celebrating the death of a fellow human being. Now, that it is a totally valid and understandable point of view. But what did catch my attention was that about a dozen of them chose to express that thought by posting the following statement:

"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." - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

Look, it's a nice enough sentiment, I guess. I'm all for love and peace. When it comes to navigating the trenches of our own conflicted souls, love and forgiveness is totally the way to go. But in matters of foreign policy? Come on. Light driving out darkness? Seriously? That kind of sanctimony may lend you a false sense of moral supremacy but only because there are Navy Seals out there providing you that luxury by blowing the heads off psychopathic monsters that want to murder you.

Let me fill you in on a little secret. If Martin Luther King were both alive and in the vicinity of Washington DC on Sunday night, he would have been dancing in the streets in front of the White House along with everyone else. Does this make MLK a hypocrite for not backing up his words with his actions? No it does not. Possibly because I just invented his actions with my own impossible hypothetical scenario that conveniently supports my point. I can't really hold a man who has been dead for forty years accountable for stuff I just imagined. In fact it's quite disingenuous of me to co opt the reputation of the one the great leaders in human history to illustrate my own narrow point, isn't it? But the real reason he would not be a hypocrite is the following (and listen closely):

Well, not all of it. The last part he said. But there wasn't anything about mourning victims or celebrating death. And though he did say that love > hate (in many more eloquent ways that this example, by the way) he certainly didn't say it in reference to the death of bin Laden. And to high jack his words to that effect is no different that me claiming some imaginary instance of MLK fist pumping and high fiving college students on the streets of DC.

I understand the impulse to find some more articulate than yourself to say what you would like to express. I do it all the time. But when you invoke a famous historical figure it falsely gives the appearance of logical and moral trump card. "The discussion is now over, because Martin Luther King agrees with me! That makes you James Earl Ray. Check mate, bitch!"

So whenever you find yourself in need of a bit of wisdom, just dig up some slogan and mangle it until it supports your point and attach it to one of the following historic sages of wisdom; Einstein, Lincoln, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Mandela (enlightened, white Americans loooooove quoting Mandela), Churchill and if you're feeling edgy, Nietzsche. And if the content of the "quote"** appears to conflict with the reputation of the historic authority in question, all the better. That way you have Nelson Mandela agreeing with you. Which makes you as wise and correct as him. For example, compare the following quotes and tell me which has more credibility:

"The chaotic order and transcendent depth of both the universe and the atom point to the existence of God. Symmetry on such an infinite scale cannot be a mere mathematical accident." - Albert Einstein

"The chaotic order and transcendent depth of both the universe and the atom point to the existence of God. Symmetry on such an infinite scale cannot be a mere mathematical accident." - Some dipshit on a blog that he named after GOB's little brother.

There are a lot of really good reasons to believe in God. But appealing to the authority of a fancy sounding (and nonsensical) quote that I just now made up is not one of them. Likewise, feeling that America’s boisterous chest thumping in the aftermath of bin Laden’s death is in poor taste is a reasonable thought. But saying so by hamfistedly disfiguring one of the more mediocre statements of Dr. King into a rather self righteous condemnation of a grateful nation is a crappy way to express that sentiment.

I think the reason this irritated me so much is because of the implicit accusation that Sunday night’s celebration had sprung from hate. That could not be further from the truth. This is not a hateful scene.

If these celebrations were motivated by hate then the crowds would have been chanting “Death to Islam!” or “Now let us us feast upon the entrails of Osama’s children!” But instead this crowd of sober, otherwise jaded college students are joyfully singing the National Anthem and doing so with a conspicuous absence of irony. Not a tinge. This is a beautiful and spontaneous display of noble pride. And any false sense of righteousness that attempts to criticize it dismisses this spirit of genuine solidarity that maybe comes around once in a generation. If you're lucky.

As the Dali Lama once said, "Evil may masquerade as Good. But Good will always reveal itself as Truth."

Or did he?***

*That's German for "The Osama! THE!"

** If I were reading that out loud, would I say, "Quote, quote, unquote." or "Quote, unquote, quote."?

*** No. He didn't. I just made that shit up. It doesn't even make sense.


Jared said...

Well said!

Amy said...

I'm sick of saying this Brian: get this stuff published. It's good. I know that sounds cheesy to you, but everybody who reads this will agree with me.

Amy said...

by the way, Amy is Spencer Thomason.

Earth Sign Mama said...

Seriously, Amy/Spencer is correct. YOU'RE A VERY TALENTED WRITER.

Scoosba said...

Dude, you can't go this long between posts.

Devany said...

No one who speaks German could be an evil man.