Sunday, May 1, 2011


Normally I like to let things percolate a little before I write about them. But I don't want to let this percolate. I want to write about this tonight, May 1, on the night I found out, that Osama bin Laden is dead.

The truth is I haven't thought about Osama bin Laden a whole lot in the last few years. Probably in the past 7, 8, even 9 years, other than when his face has graced newspapers or news broadcasts.

9/11 has come and gone nine times, and I've thought about that day, about what we lost, but I haven't thought about the man who engineered it.

So tonight when Andy Cohen of all people (I was watching Watch What Happens Live, sue me), said that sentence, "Osama is dead," I wasn't really prepared for what I felt in that moment. It was a surge of vindication and relief, and joy.

I've never been joyful over death before. It's a little strange. Even when Saddam Hussein was killed, there was something gruesome in it to me. I thought he was a terrible man who deserved to pay for his crimes. But I couldn't really be excited about death, no matter who it was.

But I feel happy about this tonight. I feel ecstatic and full of emotions I didn't know were there. I remember what it felt like all those years ago, when we first invaded Afghanistan, when we were so raw and broken, and were so sure that what we were doing there would heal us, give us justice for a day we'll never really get over. I remember how freeing the anger was then, how good it felt to be angry instead of sad. We funneled all of that anger into its rightful owner-this man in a beard who had ripped a hole in the world, who had hurt us as he had hurt so many people all over the globe.

This man turned children into his own personal weapons. He used lies and exploitation to turn people into bombs that would kill more people. And all the while he sat there in his caves, so frustratingly out of reach. And so after 9/11 we all pictured what it would feel like for him to be caught, to be killed. We wanted it on a visceral, human level. And that didn't happen, not in any simple way. Things only got more complicated and more broken and sad as the months and years passed. We never got that release, that feeling of vindication. Instead things became jumbled to the point where even our victories felt like we had still lost.

And so maybe that's what this is, tonight, nearly ten years after two towers fell and changed the world.  For tonight we're back on that straight line of cause and effect, of crime and punishment, of good guys getting the bad guys before the credits roll. Tonight we remember that early anger, how primal it almost was. We remember how much we longed for something, anything, to assuage that anger. And for the first time, we're granted that relief.

And maybe I should feel bad about this. Maybe a truly good person, a saint, would not wish death even on this man. At the least they wouldn't be happy about it.

But the simple truth is that I am happy about it. And I can't even feel bad about it. This man was a monster. He's hurt so many people. His death doesn't fix that. It doesn't bring those people back. It doesn't end terrorism.

But it's justice, a justice I think we had all forgotten how deeply we needed.

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