Columns / Discourse / May 4, 2011

Voice of Reason: Dancing with death

If someone is murdered and the killer is given a death sentence, is it good form for the victim’s family to bring champagne to the courtroom, shoot it off and cheer as the verdict is read? I personally don’t think it is, and I suspect most people would agree. Yet when news of the death of notorious mass-murderer Osama bin Laden was made public, the reaction was not one of grim resignation or relief that perhaps America was a little bit safer, but one of wild partying and celebration. In this there is something seriously wrong.

It’s important to begin by saying that it was not wrong to send SEALs in to kill bin Laden any more than it is inappropriate to punish convicted murders through life imprisonment or death. In this case capture seemed impractical, so one cannot fault the Navy’s actions. Regardless of your feelings about American actions in the Middle East before or after Sept. 11, 2001, the world is not a worse place because bin Laden is no longer in it. He is a murderer plain and simple, and should never be given cult status as a hero standing up to the West á la Che Guevera.

Nothing actually changes as a result of this event. Despite at least one bit of inane CNN commentary, the War on Terror is not over nor is it going to be anytime soon. One does not defeat a disembodied concept with a single man’s death. In fact, such wars tend to never have final victories. If a War on Slavery had been declared in the 1800s, we would still be fighting it today—slavery was never totally eliminated worldwide. To think that terrorism will disappear after this or any victory is the height of delusional thinking. Apart from the futility of trying to erase a phenomenon with such a long historical record, none of the recent attacks or near-attacks on America—Times Square, Fort Hood, the Underwear Bomber—were centrally directed from bin Laden. He might very well have had nothing to do with them. Tomorrow, attacks will still be planned against America with the same chance of success as before, and the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya will continue as if nothing had happened.

There is one thing that is being celebrated: death. Call it justice, call it revenge, call it America kicking ass; it remains a celebration of death and destruction. I’ve heard it suggested that it is really more about celebrating the troops. If that’s true, I’m waiting with bated breath for the massive partying that will mark Armed Forces Day in a few weeks—it’s on Saturday, May 21 if anyone was wondering. Blast “Party in the U.S.A.” as loudly as you want and drink as much as you want. None of it will change the fact that this is the same mindset that disgusted us when crowds killed Americans in Fallujah, burned their bodies and hung the charred remains from bridges while celebrating. Don’t let the differences in circumstances obscure the basic truth that the mindsets are, at heart, the same.

At least one person has told me that I must not be any fun at parties if I can’t just accept a good excuse to party when one presents itself- which practically begs the question of when college students started requiring breaking international affairs news to find an excuse to party. If that’s what having fun at parties entails, then may I never suffer the misfortune of attending one again. This world does not lack for positive things to celebrate, nor is there a reason there really needs to even be a pretext to enjoy yourself. It’s not asking much at all that the next time something like this happens, death and destruction aren’t made the life of the party.

Matt Barry
Matt Barry is a senior majoring in international relations and double minoring in economics and German. This is his third year working for TKS, having served previously as discourse editor. He has worked for such organizations as the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Premier Tourism Marketing and the Council on American Islamic Relations-Chicago, where his work appeared in such publications as Leisure Group Travel, Ski & Ride Club Guide and The Chicago Monitor. Matt has written his political opinion column, "The Voice of Reason," weekly for three years, which finished in first place at the 2012 Illinois College Press Association conference and was also recognized at the 2013 conference.


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