So much has happened since the last “On the Ravine” post. Elder son Jade married Anjie in a surprise ceremony at their engagement dinner. Easter came and went, along with Holy Week. Our Santa Cruz friends visited for a week and we had our touristy picture snapped as we gathered around a microphone onstage at the Ryman. Sunday, some jewelry went missing and we buried one of my favorite aunts, two unconnected events.
I can’t tell stories about any of that until I figure out how I feel about this bin Laden thing.
I was up much later than my usual bedtime. An email alerted me to a Presidential statement of some sort. Then another email followed to say that Osama bin Laden was dead. It was time to turn on the TV.
My elder son Jade called to make sure we had the TV on.
“You weren’t asleep, were you?” he asked.
“No, I’m watching TV. Dave is in bed.”
“Just wanted to make sure you knew that Osama bin Laden is dead,” he said.
We made a few sentences of small talk. I wondered why Jade wouldn’t have thought I was in bed since 9:00 P.M. had long passed. I wondered if he would have called anyway.
I thought about waking Dave and imagined his response. Good. I’ll read about it tomorrow. I’m going back to sleep.
John King on CNN said people were gathering outside the White House. President Obama was to make a statement in just a few minutes to officially inform us that Osama bin Laden was dead. The crowd started with thirty or forty people and, before the President made it to TV, grew to several hundred or a thousand or more, a few waving flags, jumping up and down for the camera, singing The National Anthem off-key. Someone must have called for another song because they started “God Bless America.”
I was relieved when President Obama strode to the microphone. I was not offended by the first sentence starkly informing us that bin Laden was dead but I got irritated with the next several paragraphs telling us the story of what happened on 9/11…again. Is there anyone who doesn’t remember? Would there be anyone who didn’t know the name Osama bin Laden? Is this reminder some sort of justification for our taking him out?
I made circles in front of my chest with my right hand. Come on, come on!
My first reaction to this “targeted operation” carried out by “a small team of Americans” was “Wow.” It wasn’t a loud wow, but a quiet awe that generated by the thoughts of a few guys, maybe Navy Seals, sneaking into this protected compound, scaling walls, taking no prisoners. Wow.
I thought our military’s special forces could do that, this movie-quality action. In fact, I’d said several times—most frequently after two glasses of chardonnay—that “they ought to take him out” in the same way, as it turns out, that they actually did. I just couldn’t think of anything else but “Wow.” I was alone, but I said it aloud several times.
After the speech, I watched our celebration of death…the death of bin Laden. John King said we should take a look over at Ground Zero, where the mood was “more somber, and quiet.” I was in favor of somber.
I wasn’t what you’d really call “happy” that bin Laden was dead but I was okay with it, maybe relieved. The world is better off without bin Laden. I watched the gathering; it seemed that since we gathered after the Twin Towers fell and planes crashed and grief overtook us, so we ought to gather again to say “It’s over.” I just don’t know what that “it” is and I’m not sure whatever it is, that it is over.
I felt strange and some of the talk bothered me.
“Did you think we’d ever KILL him?” John King asks some man on the screen.
And then, “Are you surprised that President Obama praised President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan for aiding in the killing of bin Laden?”
So he was hiding out in a mansion a few miles north of Islamabad. A mansion. Same place you find some American criminals, except I didn’t think the mansion in Pakistan looked like a mansion. Our mansions are much more elaborate, and bigger, too.
“Look at the crowds,” John King said. “They’re celebrating. This is pure joy.”
Wolf Blitzer says, “Let’s listen in to the crowds outside the White House so we can get a little flavor.” Where did he come from?
There was great jubilation with lots of flags now waving, lighted cell phones held high in the night air, and young people climbing in the crape myrtles for some reason.
I needed to go to bed and I did, but the last time I remember looking at the clock it said “3:00.”
Yesterday afternoon, still tired from too little sleep, I visited with my dad, a wise old man if ever I knew one.
“It’s no cause for celebration,” he said. “We did what we had to do, and our boys did it very well, but we grieve that it took a killing to do it.”
Today, after a good night’s sleep and the passage of several hours, I know what I feel about bin Laden. It is “not much.” I still find no joy in the death of this mad man.
I know some things that I feel about us. I wish we didn’t look so much like those who celebrated after they took down the Twin Towers. I hope we have crippled Al Qaeda. I am still in awe of the operation and those who carried it out.
And how do I feel about me? I am ever committed to non-violence and I hope that we will always try, and try, and try diplomacy-again. I pray that we will find a way to be peaceful not just with our enemies, but with ourselves.
My friend posted on Facebook, “He’s dead. What is there left to be said?”