Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Surly, You Jest!

I've noticed something, both about myself and about people I've interacted with over the past two days.
We're all pretty troubled and surly.
As it seems to be a fairly universal theme, bridging the gap between conservatives and liberals, men and women, coastal and heartland folks, I suspect there's something more than just a general malaise at work here. It can't be the weather, altho some of the country is getting hammered pretty hard, but not all of us.
As best as I can figure, it's the letdown after Osama bin Laden was killed.
Yea, I know, sounds silly. After all, this was the Big Cheese, the guy we should have gotten years ago, put on trial and convicted (because it's pretty clear he was guilty), and had a national celebration.
We did have that celebration in absentia, of course: crowds lined Times Square and Ground Zero. The nationally televised baseball game showed the Philadelphia fans (ironically, with the game in the 9th, 1-1) laughing and shouting "U!S!A! U!S!A! U!S!A!" A short explosion, a release of the strain of a decade (and more, for those of us paying attention since at least 1993), a firework of elation.
Despite the initial joyous reaction, I wonder if there isn't a hangover at play here. What's really changed? We'll still line up at airport security, take our shoes off, and carry no more than 3 oz of shampoo in our carry-on bags. We'll still be asked to "See Something, Say Something." We'll still hear how our President is a Muslim pretender (despite having killed three high profile Muslims in one week.) We'll still see cops and Guardsmen on the streets, automatic weapons in hand. We'll still be reminded nearly daily that we are at war with East Asia, I mean, Oceania.
It will be sanitzed for your comfort, of course, just as the administration wrings its hands over releasing a photograph of bin Laden's dead body.
Is it that things won't change? Al Qaeda, when the towers were attacked, numbered about 200. Now it's in the tens of thousands. I expect that number to explode as both the global economic meltdown wends its ways thru the poorer quarters of the world and as a mythology about Osama bin Laden is gilded and passed on. We're still in danger, lest anyone believe otherwise, and maybe at heart that is what bothers us most.
Is it the uncertainty, knowing that we might be a little safer, but perhaps not? Is it just a "that's all there was?" moment that sees us as a nation, embued in the media and in our mythology with crescendic endings, hearing about the death of the "monster" and realizing, at last, that he was just a man?
Rightly, he was the embodiment of the enemy we face, the public image of a network of people who would see us harmed for the sake of their beliefs. And wrongly, he was the embodiment of the enemy we face, for he was much less than that enemy.
In our simplistic worldview, perhaps we hoped that eliminating him eliminated Al Qaeda, but we also knew better. In a reverse-Pandora's Box scenario, those hopes have now been liberated, and Pandora has only trapped depair within.
Perhaps despair is too strong a word. Resignation fits better, I think.
I wanted to see bin Laden standing in the dock, preferably here in New York. I wanted to hear what he had to say, live and without the assistance of a video camera to remove him one level from other humans.
I want to see Khalid Sheik-Mohammed, too, right here in my city, the city he so wounded, the city that still has struggles in its return to its pinnacle. I reinforce my call for the Obama administration to bring him here for trial, especially now that the only man whose trial would have done justice to the crimes committed has been killed with extreme prejudice.
President Obama said "Justice is done." True. But it was an easy justice, a cowboy's justice, the kind of justice that you do when you don't have recourse to a court. I'm against war, against the death penalty, for precisely that reason. We are a better nation than this, even if recent evidence suggests we've slid back a hundred years into a dingy past of economic slavery, intolerance and injustice.
I want America back. And that's why I'm surly.