Letter to the Future. XI - bin Laden is Dead

3 May 2011

bin Laden is Dead

To Future,
Two nights ago a Navy SEAL team descended on a fortified mansion in a northern suburb of Islamabad, Pakistan.  We asked them to, demanded in fact.  A firefight ensued, during which one commando shot twice a gray-haired man on the left side of his face, killing him.  Osama bin Laden is dead.

In the minds of mine and my parents' generations that name has burned itself next to the memory of our World Trade Center exploding, burning, bending and failing in the face of all the alternatives we wished for it that morning.  Its uttering recalls a force in this world so heinous, so selfish, so disloyal to our highest ideas of holiness that it would bring three thousand lives burning to the street on the premise that the western world's perversion constitutes a capital crime, one over which men like bin Laden have elected themselves to preside.  Many yelled at their television screens, others sat helpless; some, if you can believe it, ran toward the tower while it fell, hauling strangers from the monster's jaw.  In the lungs of these Americans, bin Laden's legacy is buried in scars, never to be excavated nor forgotten, a chronic poison to their being.  Others of their cohort were wholely buried beneath that same legacy, convicted purely that their countrymen were worth a journey to flame and concrete from which they cannot return. 

Bin Laden reigned from a cloud of powerful intolerance, prescribing death for our innocent and unsuspecting and then for the sentinels that attempted their rescue.  Moreover, he mocked our society.  He dictated the sexual and social enslavement of women on behalf of a just and living god, while twisting the minds of men so sharply they lost sight of the day light, leaving them to a darkness that cannot reflect humility or tenderness or value in the other. 

So we asked our soldiers to load their guns with him in mind, and forfeited our rights assuming those with nothing to hide shouldn't mind the looking.

And when we got him, Future, oh when we got him, those two lead taps to the head, and the skin that bent back inside, the decimation of his veins and the quake that shook his temples in two, wiping god from his conscience with our steel, the smoking lake of gray matter that trickled and then gushed from his face, never capable of plotting or remembering again, the reminant of life that recoiled back from his lips and tongue and throat with the strange half-screaming moan we imagine he let slip toward the last face he saw, an American boy, looking at him through eyes that saw the towers fall, fall on those we loved and those we didn't know but surely didn't deserve such a cataclysm, and the dust he kicked up when he hit the floor and the saltwater that filled and shredded and scattered his lungs, and the house, even a single building, that will stink with the rot of death as our city does now, oh Future, we loved it.

We sang in the streets.

But I'm not sure why, future.  Do I think the world is better with one less Osama bin Laden?  Absolutely, I do.  I just do not know if that's what we accomplished.  Relying on narratives of violence, expertly we author more catastrophe.  We have no reason or history to think otherwise.  Ridding the world of an Osama bin Laden is cause for celebration.  Ridding the world of him with bullets and hatred and malice alien to us before he injured us, is not ridding the world of him at all.

Set your standard high, Future.  Know that in this world, it seems, destruction is a necessity.  But what of your celebration?  I say, save that for the creation.  The farm, the hospital, the school, the polling station.  Build a future for yours and your enemy's children, Future.  Then dance in the streets. 

- erik in the past

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