Wednesday, May 4, 2011

There's More Than One Way To Celebrate Victory

You can't tell someone how to mourn the loss of a loved one. We all do it in our own way, and we may scratch our heads at the way someone handles the death of someone close to them (and if the death is under suspicious circumstances it may spur law enforcement to have some conversations with them), but it's their way and we can't force them to mourn the way we would.

Similiarly, you can't tell people how to celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden.

There's a article making the rounds criticizing us for cheering bin Laden's death. In it the author states that bin Laden achieved a regrettable victory: "[bin Laden] has changed America’s psyche from one that saw violence as a regrettable-if-sometimes-necessary act into one that finds orgasmic euphoria in news of bloodshed. In other words, he’s helped drag us down into his sick nihilism by making us like too many other bellicose societies in history -- the ones that aggressively cheer on killing, as long as it is the Bad Guy that is being killed."

I don't agree with this. We were and still are at war. Killing bin Laden didn't end the War on Terror but it's a major victory. Hopefully it will be the beginning of the end of the war.

I don't consider this nihilism. Americans celebrated the victory in Germany and Japan in 1945. We celebrated when Hitler killed himself. He was responble for the death of tens of millions of people worldwide, many of whom were Americans.We celebrated after the Siege of Yorktown effectively gained us de jure indepence from Great Britain. Many British died in that battle, but the British were responsible for American deaths, beginning with the Boston Massacre in 1770 and continuing for more than a decade. Sure, those were wars against nation-states that ended with surrender and treaties outlining terms of the peace, which the War on Terror probably will not. But they were still wars against foreign entities.

It's human nature to celebrate. I've been in Boston on nights that the Patriots, Red Sox and Celtics won world championships. It's a great feeling. It would be flat out robotic of me not to want to jump around and be excited. People run around in the streets, hug and kiss total strangers. And yes, some people overdo it, flipping cars over and trying to set buildings on fire, but they get apprehended by police pretty quickly. You can always choose not to associate with someone who is overdoing it.

When the news broke late Sunday night that bin Laden had been killed, I was sitting in my apartment, alone, watching Celebrity Apprentice. I pumped my fist a couple of times and bounced across the living room. I had the luxury of being alone, and while the windows were open as long as there are no al-Qaeda operatives in the apartment complex across the street I don't think my exuberance ruffled any feathers.

For those who chose to celebrate more quietly, I respect their choice.

And yes, there were a few people in Boston and New York and elsewhere who overdid it, climbing street lights and lamp posts and generally acting like drunken frat boys (which they may have been).

Just because I pumped my fist does not mean I am a violnce-loving nihilist. I will be the first to say that I disagree with a lot of America's past foreign policy decisions. I think the war in Iraq was a sad, sick joke sold to us under false pretenses. I have no interest in nation-building in the Middle East, which in my opinion is as effective as trying to nation-build amongst a group of house cats. My support of the War on Terror was and is limited only to those actions expressly designed to capture and/or kill al-Qaeda operatives and their affiliates.

The author of the above column certainly is entitled to his opinion. But I don't believe you can tell people how to celebrate. To do so would be, well, un-American.

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