In movies, there sometimes are villains who are so malevolent, so unredeemable, so hopelessly lost and vile of soul, that they must be destroyed. Emperor Palpatine in Star Wars, any number of Western evildoers, or, hell, the crazy octobutt lady from The Little Mermaid. These characters are written essentially as a vehicle for conflict resolution, and because there could never be any hope of turning them around or bringing them back from the darkness they’ve fallen into and become, we as the audience rejoice at their demise, saying, “It was all that could be done.”
Some villains, in film, in literature—and apparently in life—are too evil to be left alive.
For the last decade, the U.S. has painted Osama Bin Laden as one such villain. We all remember 9/11, the panic and terror that followed, the unnervingly jingoistic marches into Afghanistan and Iraq, the “Wanted: Dead Or Alive” posters, the video footage out of the Middle East, our men and women going off to fight, and as the people of the region that gave us agriculture and the founding elements of what we currently think of as existence stand up and demand the governmental representation that the West has been heralding as their birthright and Osama Bin Laden is killed in a raid on a mansion/compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan—where we all knew he was, anyway—I have to wonder: What exactly are we celebrating?
Because I’ve yet to learn my lesson, I turned on CNN after my wife told me the news she’d seen on the Internet, and we watched as a crowd of stupid teenagers gathered outside the White House, egged on by news cameras to yuck it up, chant “U.S.A! U.S.A.!” and the national anthem. It looked like the beginnings of a Girls Gone Wild video, and once again, I was fucking embarrassed to exist.
We do not deserve to rejoice at the death of Osama Bin Laden, or of anyone. As a nation, we’ve spent a decade lamenting 3,000+ people who died when planes met skyscrapers. From flags on cars to troops on the ground, the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, have literally been the defining moment in American foreign policy for the last decade, for better or worse—usually worse—and now that Osama Bin Laden, the Al Qaeda figurehead said to be responsible for implementing those attacks, is dead, we celebrate? It’s time to sober up, kids. Time to take that blue and red paint off your face. We should be mourning.
If you believe in the value of human life, that means everybody. Sorry to say it, but it’s true. Whether it’s an American soldier or an Iraqi freedom fighter, Afghani warlord or, yes, even Osama Bin Laden, if you believe that all life is imbued with dignity and intrinsic value, then considering all of the people who’ve lost their lives over the course of our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq—on all sides—it makes me sick to think of American children throwing their hands in the air and raising flags to herald the death of Bin Laden. Congratulations, you’ve learned nothing, and it only came at the price of bankrupting the nation.
I’m not saying America or its people should be mourning Bin Laden, but at least take a lucid look at the world that created him and our part in it.
I don’t know if Osama Bin Laden was too evil to be left alive, and at this point, it doesn’t matter. His function was more or less as a symbol of defiance against American imperial will, and we showed that such defiance has only one end, even if that end comes a decade later. Who it really means something for is President Obama, who strutted up to the podium to deliver the confirmation last night (May 1), every inch the cowboy George W. Bush never was, knowing for sure that he just sealed his reelection no matter what happens economically between then and now. I mean, seriously, this is the President who ended “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and killed Osama Bin Laden. He’s got something for everyone, and if you missed the birth certificate, he’s even American!
Maybe shooting Bin Laden gives 9/11 families some sense of peace or closure, but honestly, I hope not. Because that would mean that we as a people have hit the point where the only thing that satisfies our bloodlust is revenge, and what’s more villainous than that? Osama Bin Laden is dead. So are a lot of other people, and if you think it’s alright to pick and choose who deserves to live and who deserves to die, then you’ve obviously lost sight of what got us into this mess in the first place.