Posted by: MC | May 6, 2011

Bin Laden’s Death & What We Really Want

I heard no fireworks.  In the center of the rural Midwest, I was aware of no celebrations – raucous or otherwise – in bars, in living rooms, in church fellowship halls.

I was an outsider.  Just visiting.  I may not have been sensitive to the signs.  Midwesterners are also known to be a rather reserved bunch.  But, this winter I’ve had occasion to observe both Green Bay Packers fans and energized mass protests at the statehouse in Madison,WI.  I’m not so convinced of the stereotype.  These folks can get revved up just fine.

Here’s what I heard in the days following May 1.

Justin told me about the tenacity of his grief.  “It’s been a whole month,” he said.  The cash register made electric sounds as he scanned the onions, the asparagus, the milk.  I watched his eyes well up.  His mom had died with heart failure.  “The news says people are all happy about Bin Laden being murdered.  Maybe I’m just stuck in my mom being gone, but I don’t get it.  Will it stop the terror killings?  Will it make it so we stop the wars and have more money for Americans so people like my mom can get help and won’t have to die?”

Cindy was standing in line to buy water at the airport.  She looked at a headline.  BIN LADEN’S PHOTOS AT DEATH WITHELD.  I was reading it, too.  We looked up at the same time.  “Such hype,” Cindy said.  “I agree with the wife of the man who was killed in the towers.  I just read her blog online.  She says the feeling she gets from the news isn’t happiness.  When you’ve lost what feels like everything, nothing gives it back.”  Cindy went on.  “Maybe it will be good that Bin Laden is dead, but we don’t need any more glorifying of spy movie execution drills.  That doesn’t solve anything.”

In the grocery check out, in the airport, in the coffee shop, at the gas pump the comments I overheard sustained the theme.  Relief, but only tentative.  Hope, but only because it would be too defeating to give it up.  Sadness at the fact of executions and all the other deaths that have their cause squarely in 10 years of war.

If the sentiments of these people are representative, what Americans want is clear.  We want the wars to be over.  We want the terrorism to stop.

We also want jobs and health and education for our young.  We want clean air and water.  We’d just as soon get along.  And we wouldn’t mind some fairness – civic contribution to the tax base on the part of the super wealthy doing their part for the well being of the community.

It seems at total contradiction to what the media report, but I just can’t conclude from the responses I’ve heard that what Americans want is to celebrate executions.  Even when the victim is responsible for hideous acts of terror.

We do want the terror to stop.

The reasonable American man or woman understands extreme measures, but we don’t celebrate them.  We want to know what is happening to support human connection, human dignity, safety, health and joy – the circumstances that render terrorism irrelevant and unnecessary.

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