On celebrating ten years too late

Like a lot of people, I’m glad to hear that Osama Bin Ladin is dead. It might have been nice to capture him, to put him on trial. But we didn’t get that.

Reaction to the news has been interesting. In addition to spontaneous parties in New York and Washington, DC, there were late-night celebrations in here in Blacksburg and Radford. Many, of mot most, of the revelers were college-age. Their partying makes sense; these students were in elementary school during the attacks. He must of been a bogey man for much of their childhood, the way the Soviets were in mine, the way Hitler still is.

I don’t begrudge them the party. They grew up in a very scary time, a time that others of us were able to face as an adults. For that reason Bin Ladin’s death comes with too much baggage to w00t over — two wars and all the casualties those caused. A loss of civil rights we probably won’t see restored in our lifetimes. Fear and division between us, hatred and suspicion of our own neighbors.

A few people have said his death is mostly symbolic. That may be true; perhaps Bin Laden’s operational days were over. Symbols can be powerful, though, and a symbolic victory is not an insignificant one. It will be awhile before we find out just what effect killing him will have on global terrorism. It certainly won’t end terrorism, but terrorists are human, not zombies or borg. No one can just step into Bin Laden’s shoes and do what he did. Symbolic or not, this victory is real.

So he’s dead and I’m glad. I’m optimistic that it will have beneficial effect. But I’m also concerned about what will happen now. And more than a little sad about how much success Bin Laden had disrupting our country, our peace, and our freedom.