Tuesday, May 10, 2011

In Loving Memory...

What do President Obama, al Qaeda, the Taliban, Mrs. bin Laden(s), and Fox News agree on?  Osama bin Laden was killed shortly after midnight on May 1, 2011.  What else do they agree about?  Not much.

Before we dip our thirsty quill into the unctuous inkwell of irony that is bleakday's guilty pleasure, let us say simply, Good. (Irony after the break)

The world is better today than it was a week ago when Osama bin Laden was free to inspire thousands with his message of hate.  His backwards philosophy was dangerous to western civilization, but perhaps more importantly, it was deadly to middle-eastern civilization's ability to secure safety and prosperity in an increasingly connected global village.  His death is good news for us and gives hope to those who struggle directly under the oppression of feudalistic, pseudo-theocracies clinging to power through isolationism, censorship, and the invention of foreign devils to unite the gullible and silence the dissenters.

Good, we say.  Not Yippee, or USA! USA!, or even Hallelujah.  We will save that for the World Cup.  Those he hurt and those he threatened are breathing a little easier now and we are gladdened if their burden is lightened, if only a little.  The killing of OBL was a victory, not in the competitive sense, but in the survival sense.  Nobody scored a touchdown, and nobody deserves to take a victory lap in celebration.  Such comparisons cheapen the real suffering of his victims and the commitment of those who put their own lives in peril on May 1st.  Instead, we gratefully acknowledge those who found and killed him for the service they provided to those he threatened, which was all of us.  Good.


OMFG they killed Grampa!  The architect of 9/11 and the sworn blood-enemy of the west... the brutal and monstrous progenitor of airport strip-searches... the be-turbaned devil who killed thousands and handed Bush Jr. a second term... the legendary mujahid who threw the Russians out of Afghanistan and drew the Americans in so he'd have somebody to play with... the ghost of Tora Bora who slyly eluded a world-wide manhunt for nearly a decade after committing one of the most heinous crimes ever witnessed in color... well... after years of hype he was a little sad to look at.  Recently released video of OBL in his pajamas shows us that he was just a frail old man who, like all old men, needed help running the VCR.
Puppy dog eyes: The late Usama bin Laden (the new U spelling helps us not say Obama bin Laden) struck us as something of a paradox.  His kind eyes and winning smile belied that corrupted and horrid little soul that dwelt deep down, somewhere in the area of his left heel.  How could he, we asked ourselves, have perpetrated such horrific acts on his friends and enemies alike?  Hitler, at least, looked evil.  From his odd mustache to the rigid right-arm salute, we
knew he was a baddie right from the start (of our history textbook).  Stalin, Chaves, Manson, and Nixon made it easy too.

It seems that you can't judge a terrorist by his keffiyeh:  That Usama had a grandfatherly demeanor and maintained the loyal affection of his wives, children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, couriers, soldiers, suicide bombers, and secret Pakistani government protectors does not diminish the fact that he was a cold-blooded killer.  What bothers us is that his was the face of a man who turned airplanes into missiles might offer us a Werther's Original chocolate.  Far from the mighty Lion Sheikh of bin Ladin lore, the man in the CIA-released video is a thin, grey pensioner huddled under a blanket and watching the news on a cheap 13" TV with cables running down the wall.  The one-time warrior now reminds us of a home-bound octogenarian looking for the Lawrence Welk Show.

How sad: we had imagined that he kept track of his al Qaeda network on a cave-mounted 100" 200" plasma TV monitoring current missions, secret asset locations (like the WMD he was hiding for Saddam), and a never-ending video (narrated by Charleton Heston) explaining his plans for world domination.  Instead, we are forced to consider that the under-achieving UBL was no 007-style villain after all, and that he probably didn't have sharks with laser beams attached to their frickin' heads either.

Bullets killed UBL, but video killed the radio star:  One look at the un-dyed, unrehearsed husk of a worldwide terrorist mastermind sitting on the floor of his million-dollar suburban hovel (couldn't someone have bought him a Barcalounger?) utterly assassinates the larger-than-life bin Laden that the whole world has been hunting for nearly a decade.  He was, as the bullets started flying, an angry old man who went to absurdly selfish and violent lengths to create importance and relevance for himself.  He was, after the videos started flying, so much less than we had built him up to be.

Are we disappointed that the devil from Yemen didn't have horns, a forked tongue, and muscles like Vin Diesel?  A little.  We like our villains to look the part, and we hate it when they look like Grampa because it prompts us to question what we really know about our loved ones: was Grampa really as kind as we always thought, or did he have a dark side, with a past waiting to catch up to him in a midnight rush of helicopter rotors?  The thought that UBL might have taken a bullet in the head while he had sweets for his grandkids tucked into the pocket of his dishdasha is just creepy.  The thought that our Grampa might have harbored dark secrets behind those gentle bluing eyes while he magically produced a Tootsie Roll from behind our ear will haunt us for a little while until we get this figured out.

Usama, in life you killed thousands, including a friend of ours on the second plane, for your own ego.  In death you are assaulting our loving memory of Grampa and we have had enough:   We hereby reject the memory of your oh-too-human visage in life and choose only to imagine your face as a drive-in restaurant in the deep for little white crabs and hungry sea slugs.

There... that's better.

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