Now that Bin Laden’s dead, the country can move on to the debate about how to feel about it. And isn’t that weird? We’ll argue about how we feel. Then, we’ll argue about what to do next, which may or may not include the completion of Ground Zero construction and/or how we feel about construction nearby. So Bin Ladin’s dead. How should I feel?
Here’s how I feel: nauseous from not knowing how to feel. I’m happy. They got him. Put a bullet in his head. Fed him to the fishes. I’m sad. Sad they couldn’t press him under tons of rubble first, suffocate him slowly with his legs sticking out and light the soles of his feet on fire. Sad I desire that kind of retribution and worried about my own soul because of it. Sad one man was worth the life of thousands more. Sad I want to say that’s true but can’t quite bring myself to it. Sad because I know this doesn’t mean our troops will come home. Sad because the troops who do come home will come home half-men, and many of them, too, without the kind of distant psychological and philosophical luxury I have, will wonder if sacrificing their legs and friends and souls was worth the death of one inevitable martyr. (We?) did it all to avenge, to revenge. That’s the story most are going to stick with anyhow because the cynical side of the story is too much for a soul to bear. I feel angry. Angry it happened at all. Angry anything that followed seemed necessary and pressing. Angry our confusion and sadness were used against us for political and economic reasons. Angry we had to go on a worldwide, trillion-dollar manhunt and that some people got rich off of it. Angry there might be motives underneath it not readily obvious to the public and not readily speculated on by the media. Angry we had to move forward even though suspicious of the reasons, even though the bounty on his head wasn’t near high enough, even though we took a detour and were looking in the wrong place, and it seemed certain heads and photographs were being held up as symbols to keep us pressing on in the opposite (but same!) way the opposition was holding them up. Angry and sad because I was powerless against all of it. I’m conflicted, because there’s no such thing as a holy murder. I’m embarrassed. Embarrassed because I picked up a torch and joined the largest lynch mob in history. I’m confused. Confused because now that we have the prize, I don’t know what we should do with it. Go home I guess. Pretend it never happened? Put the head up on my wall? Declare a holiday? Do this in remembrance of him? I’m scared. Scared because, if there is a hell and for certain he was sent there, whose head do we hold up next? Scared because of the necessity of a new antagonist, without which we wander the desert until we find some lesser justification for being there, a justification that probably was there all along beneath the surface, a cynical and horrible justification emblazoned with the words “Truth, Justice, and the American Way,” and underneath it is a truth we feared most and denied most. I’m worried. Worried my compatriots will know how I feel and make me a new enemy. I’m satisfied and guilty like I ate too much. Glad he’s dead. Sad I’m glad he’s dead.