What now?

I was one of the folks who slept through the breaking news on Sunday, then awoke on Monday to a changed world.

And what I found, once I absorbed the basic facts and the who, what, when, where, how, was a sense of American jubilation, which I both observed and took part in, of the sort that’s been unfamiliar and absent lo these many years.

All for the death of one sick old man.

Yes, he was an extraordinary old man, who’d earned his place in the U.S. crosshairs, at the cost of untold suffering and immeasurable blood. And although I’m perhaps more careful than many people to call for anyone’s death, I readily recognize that there are those among us who willfully forfeit their right to draw air. And this sick old man was without doubt one of those.

But what now?

Now a myriad of questions hang unanswered, and the next days or weeks or months, even years, might bring answers. Not all of those answers will be to our liking.

Al Qaeda is not defeated. Bin Laden has been a figurehead and a rallying point, but not an operational leader, for nearly a decade now. The organization he founded was decimated long before today, with dozens or hundreds of targeted air-strikes, and likely scores of close-quarters assassinations that we’ll never hear about. But Al Qaeda learned from those events and they adapted; they dispersed and decentralized. And they spent years preparing for a day like today.

Whether or not they’re successful in a retaliation attack, whether or not the general public ever knows that such an attack was planned or initiated or thwarted, it’s simply folly to think that the SEALs ended the war on Sunday. Al Qaeda doesn’t think so, where-ever and whatever they are. Neither should we.

Not that we can’t enjoy a day or two of jubilation. The American military can celebrate that their most pressing mission has been achieved. Survivors of the horrors of 9/11 can celebrate the fact that the monster who wrecked their lives is in hell where he belongs.

And supporters of Barrack Obama can celebrate his most remarkable achievement to date. Although it’s way too long until November 2012 to assume that this was the game-changer required for the president’s re-election, we can at least enjoy the initiation of a new mantra; our right-wing friends will go on saying whatever it is they say about him, and we’ll be able to reply, “But he got Bin Laden.” It’ll feel good.

But again, what now? What does this mean for our seemingly generational wars, and our bizarre relationship with the leadership of Pakistan (who¬†must have known where Bin Laden was hiding!)…? In these cases, maybe what happened Sunday night was a game-changer. It should be, at any rate.

No matter what those answers are, we know that we’ll rise on Tuesday, then Wednesday then Thursday…still jubilant but with that feeling increasingly tempered by the unchanging realities of economy, ecology, war and poverty. The sick old man will still be dead, and the world will be better for that…but enormous challenges will remain.

Enjoy your jubilation, America. I know I will. Just be ready, at a moment’s notice, to get your head back in this very, very grim game.

About editor, facilitator, decider

Doesn't know much about culture, but knows when it's going to hell in a handbasket.
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2 Responses to What now?

  1. E says:

    I’m not sure I feel happy about this turn of events. Not because I believe there was an alternative ending to the story, but, because it seems morally wrong to rejoice at another’s demise, no matter the human being. The images of crowds chanting USA and waving flags reminds me of scenes beamed to us from countries in the Middle East after 9/11 (images that so offended the U.S., I might add) and reinforces the hatred already felt, thus widening the gap between western and middle eastern culture. Can victory due to violence be called a victory?

    Maybe our cultures are mortal enemies due to our differences? Maybe we won’t be able to get past these differences? Adding fuel to a burning fire by chanting victory slogans when someone is murdered should offend our moral, societal and religious beliefs. I contend this was no victory. Necessity, maybe. A fitting end, okay. Victory, no.

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