I’m an American who works abroad. Today I woke up earlier than usual and while soberly checking the international news, I saw immediately (and everywhere) that Osama bin Laden had been killed. Good news, I suppose. The almost mythical leader of Al-Qaeda, who nearly everyone had forgotten about, was dead and dumped in the sea. He had been irrelevant for long, I thought, but perhaps his death would lead to some much-needed reflection about the catastrophe that was the last decade. Right.
I will not remember today for Osama’s death. I will remember it for the way I felt watching the videos of my countrymen celebrating in the streets of New York and Washington. I don’t recognize them, these people waving flags, singing, and pouring their jubilation into the night because we killed someone. And what about all the others that have been killed? During 10 years we spent unbelievable amounts of blood and treasure, enacted unthinkable civil liberties legislation, and turned ourselves into brutes for this.
And there we were out on the streets. Brutes. We have become brutes.
Yes, the world is a better place without Osama bin Laden. But I fear what this has brought out in us. The structural factors that create Osama bin Ladens still exist, and unless we work to change those, we will continue to undermine ourselves by giving our attention to tomorrow’s straw man.