This Changes Everything and Nothing

There were spontaneous celebrations in the street, in Times Square and at the Site.  Patriotism was all the rage.  It was little different than any other street celebration of death anywhere in the world, but Americans are special and whatever we do is different.  Even the execution of our enemies.

When President Bush announced Mission Accomplished, nothing changed.  When our anger was directed at one man, a symbol of the attack on the World Trade Center, it served as a focal point for our anger.  Almost ten years later, the symbol is gone, and Americans have taken to the street to celebrate death.

This is nothing like May 1, 1945, when we learned of the death of another devil.  He wasn’t a mere symbol, and his death meant that our fathers and sons would be coming home.  The war was over.  It took a mere week until Victory in Europe was declared, and it was truly over.  And we returned to our lives.

The death of Osama bin Laden may be cathartic to many, and perhaps this will serve a more important end then the mere death of a man.  There are many issues swirling around his death that will no doubt be fleshed out further in the days ahead, but people were giddy with joy at this one man’s death.  Just as others we despise were giddy with joy when the Twin Towers fell.  We have a new bar by which to measure ourselves, lower than it’s ever been before.

So now that another mission has been accomplished, will we raise the bar?  Will we be able to walk around our nation without being forced to show identification upon demand of armed men?  Will we be able to walk onto an airplane with our shoes on?  Will laws passed in a frenzy to allow the protectors of our safety to listen to our private words be repealed?

When before in history has one inconsequential man been so influential?  The body may be cold, but the legacy lives on in our daily lives.  Soon, there will be speech reminding us that the war on terrorism must still be fought, and that we, Americans, must still sacrifice.  And it will slowly sink in that nothing more happened than one more body has been taken in the never-ending war.  The reason is obvious, that no war has ever been so useful and productive in persuading good people to succumb to fear.

The glory of this day has been wrapped in the sorrow of the family of victims of 9/11, with proud voices saying that this will bring them closure.  I hope it does, but I suspect it won’t.  Instead, it will just remind them of what they’ve lost, and force them to relive the horror.  When they do, they will take no comfort in the death of a symbol. 

The families of those who died, and lived, will wonder why the day they waited for so long doesn’t fill the void in their hearts.  Many important people will tell them that it does, and it should, but it won’t. 

Whether Osama bin Laden has ascended to his virgins or lies cold at the bottom of the sea, we will continue to live with his legacy.  No mission will be accomplished until we shed the trappings of fear he started and the bar our government lowered in his honor.

Addendum:  When my son awoke this morning and I told him what happened, he asked, “Did we win the war?”  I bet a lot of children will ask that question this morning.

11 comments on “This Changes Everything and Nothing

  1. Kathleen Casey

    The threat of retaliations is on the news now. Who didn’t see that comimg? Things will escalate for us.

  2. Mark Draughn

    U.S. security agencies say possibility of retaliation could increase terror risk, therefore they need more money and power in 3…2…1…

  3. SHG

    Party now, pay later.  No doubt they will ratchet up the fear factor, but it’s worth it.  After all, Osama bin Laden is dead, and isn’t that the most important thing, really?  It will bring comfort to all who die in the aftermath.

  4. Eddie

    I know just the way to deal with the “impending retaliation” by Al Queda. Here it is –> More cops on Broadway and Trinity stopping not just every commercial vehicle without cause that has the audacity to drive in lower Manhattan but every vehicle of any kind. That’ll teach em!!

  5. Kathleen Casey

    Goose-steppers made up the perfect phrase for what’s coming down, “homeland security.”

  6. Shawn McManus


    It sounds as though there is a lot of uncertainty as to how to react to the news here.

    People don’t mourn the death of viruses or cancer cells. In so many ways, OBL was much worse than either. His were all concious decisions.

    In keeping with the cancer analogy: Some people succumb to the disease and some to the treatment. We just removed a large tumor. Let’s be happy about that. We still have the cancer and are still taking the chemo. Let’s not be happy about that.

    We need to return to the days when six-year-old girls weren’t fondled by security at airports. We won’t get there until we have rid ourselves of our enemies foreign and domestic, within and outside of our government.

  7. SHG

    Or maybe OBL was just a boil on our butts, annoying but of little long term consequence, and yet we’ve subjected ourselves to chemo, with all its inherent harm and risks, and can’t be sure that the treatments will ever be over.

  8. Jeff

    This is exactly why I cannot react to the news of his death with any particular sort of joy. OBL was less than a tumor to me, he was an intangible object that I was told to believe in, a boil that I could not see myself and just had to trust my doctor to believe what he says about him — even though my doctor has been less than forthright with me in the past. But now that I am told he is gone, I have to live with even more chemo, and I am told the dosage has to be increased, the tumors are more deadly, because although we succeeded, we are in even more danger now. I don’t believe we will ever go back to how we were before this war began. As much as I wish I could be one of those people happy to see him gone, I cannot force myself to be so short-sighted.

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