Sometimes you just have to write…
I’m in London right now. I hasten to add that I did NOT come here for the wedding; some of my American cousins were going to be here on Saturday, so I decided to come here to see them. Then, when the wedding was announced, I decided ‘What the hell, I’ll go see that as well.’
And I’m glad I did. It was, obviously, a uniquely British event. I’ve seem similar patriotism in the US on the fourth of July and in Holland on Koninginnedag or any international soccer event. But this was subtly different if you looked beyond the flag-waving. It was good-natured. There wasn’t the implication — open in the US, somewhat less so in Holland — that feeling love for your own nation also means feeling that your nation is better than all others. It was just ‘Yay Britain’, not ‘Britain is the best.’ And the foreigners like me in the crowd (there were a lot of us), didn’t feel unwanted or unwelcome. It was all just joyful (and, increasingly, as the day wore on, drunken, but cheerfully so).
And this morning I woke up to hear that Osama bin Laden is dead. People are celebrating in front of the White House and there is a general feeling of delight and smug satisfaction on the internet.
I find this all a bit disturbing. Yes, I’m glad he’s dead, but it doesn’t mean any real change, does it? I have this feeling that it’s somehow improper to celebrate anyone’s death, even that of someone as evil as he was.
I’m reminded of the story that is told every Passover: the Exodus story in which Moses leads the Jews out of Egypt. When they came to the Red Sea and Moses parted it so they could cross, the sea closed again over the pursuing Egyptian army, killing them. Part of the Passover service includes a warning about celebrating those deaths. Isn’t that what we’re doing now with bin Laden?
I think that perhaps the reason we shouldn’t celebrate it is that the spiral will just continue. We will celebrate, they will respond angrily — in deeds as well as in words — we will step up the unwinnable ‘War on Terror,’ and so on. Bin Laden’s death may make us feel triumphant — that smug satisfaction I mentioned earlier — but it’s certainly not the end of anything, except his life.