Rejoicing in Death: The Wicked Witch of the East Effect

Women Size Medium - Wicked Witch Costume Green Face Paint not included.So. Osama’s dead. (Or so we’re told–I give it a few days at most until the conspiracy theorists start showing how Bin Laden’s demise is all just a ruse to distract attention away from the Birther movement.) And there’s great rejoicing across the nation. People are singing spontaneously in public, and the country’s experiencing a degree of unity not felt since 9/11.

How do I feel about it?

I’m not crying the guy’s dead, first off. But I do kind of wish he hadn’t been killed, mainly because I think that was way too easy on him. I had a Twitter post where I snidely wished we’d have been playing by the Princess Bride “To the Pain” rulebook, but I didn’t mean by that that I really wanted the guy’s nose sliced off or anything. It just seems to me that a quick death isn’t really justice. It’s like in the final scene of Se7en, where Brad Pitt pulls the trigger once, then pauses and pulls the trigger a few more times. The guy’s dead after the first shot. Every other shot is just trying to make the vengeance last longer.

Of course, what would have happened if Osama were taken alive? A political and world-wide circus, most likely. Something sloppy and messy along the lines of Hussein’s capture and eventual execution. What would have happened if Hitler had been taken alive? The sad truth of the matter is that you can only kill a person once, and when they’re responsible for so much pain, mental anguish and death, that single death just doesn’t seem to balance all that other stuff out.

Is it right for people to be cheering in the streets because someone’s dead? It certainly seemed okay when the Munchkins were doing it in The Wizard of Oz. But to me it does feel kind of oily. There are better things to celebrate in this life, aren’t there? Then again, executions used to be whole-town celebrations, as well. Everyone would turn out to watch the hanging or the witch burning.

It seems to me that the more fuss we make about Osama, the more power we give him. I wish the man were no more than a footnote in history. I think he’d take a sick sort of pleasure out of seeing how much his death pleased Americans, because it means he was very successful in his war against us. Because of this man, our airports are a circus, full of body scans, pat downs, shoe removals, no liquids–it’s ridiculous. But there are better reasons to celebrate, aren’t there? Why should it need to be the death of a madman that makes us come together as a people?

I had friends who almost died on 9/11. People who were at or near the World Trade Center that morning. People who I didn’t know if they were dead or alive until the evening of the attack. I understand the need for closure, and I understand the knee-jerk reaction we can feel right now–as if Bin Laden’s death brings everything to an end.
Too bad it doesn’t. When horrific things happen, they never have an end. They affect you, and no one’s death can take it all back.

How do I feel about this?

Conflicted, obviously.

Leave a comment