I Only Cry On Thursdays

MAY 2, 2011 2:02PM

Star-Spangled Jingoism

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It’s somewhat disturbing to me that so many liberals and progressives that I normally see eye-to-eye with, today I am at cross-thoughts with.  Instead of a sober and multi-faceted reaction to the recent killing of bin Laden, people are whoopin’ it up in jubilation.   “We won!” and “Obama rocks!” – not to be confused with Katie Couric’s statement after the Iraq invasion of  - “Navy Seals rock!” 

 

When I woke up this morning and saw the news, at first I had more of a mundane reaction.  “Yes…he’s dead…and on it goes…”   I understood that it was big news, and that people would be talking about it all day, but I must admit I was unprepared for what I saw around the web (and I don’t dare turn on the TV, or I’m likely to lose my lunch).  Raucous celebrations in New York City, outside the White House and elsewhere.  Facebook postings of a fiendishly delighted nature.  Lots of blogs and columns and editorials celebrating this “momentous” occasion.  That’s when my stomach started twisting. 

 

It’s been a long ten years since we were attacked and subsequently invaded Afghanistan and continue to endlessly work our way through the Middle East.  But the initial events and the never-ending aftermath from it all are not a simple story of bad guy-good guy, crime and retaliation.  Neither should the reaction to any of it be.  Perhaps if this killing had taken place nine or ten years ago, I could understand or even appreciate some of the reaction.  But now…not so much.  Some of what I’m seeing and hearing today is hypocrisy at its finest – unthinking jingoism at its height – mass-produced patriotism and a reflexive, acquiescent public – and as usual, it saddens and sickens me and puts me outside the gate of common thought. 

 

I take what small dose of comfort I can, from the few who have written or expressed more complex reasoning and less knee-jerk thoughts and reactions.  I take additional solace in knowing that I would be in good company with other like-minded individuals if they were still alive, such as:

John Lennon

Martin Luther King Jr.

George Carlin

Kurt Vonnegut

Gandhi

 

For those that are high-fivin’ and fist-thrusting and flag-waving over the recent events, they too have company to keep:

George W. Bush

Dick Cheney

Donald Rumsfeld

Karl Rove

  

Perhaps a little more grace, a bit more dignity and a trifle less arrogance should be the rule of the day.  If only…

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Sorry, Kate, but I heartily disagree with you. When a man who committed so much evil is taken down, I feel like cheering. Where you see simple-minded jingoism, I see, for the first time since the aftermath of 9/11, Americans putting aside their deep political divisions and reaffirming that we are one nation. It won't last, and it certainly won't end terrorism or the wars in the Middle East, but I consider this a very positive day.
Cranky - I truly have too much respect for you as a writer and thinker to fiercely argue with you - and I can make room for a difference of opinion, so I hope you can as well. I feel that after the enormous amount that was lost - the lives, the maiming, the lies, the wars, the unending bloodshed, the oil, torture, economic ruin, as well as the lives on September 11th, that it's not a day for celebration, but should be one for additional mourning and serious thought over what we have come to as a country.
Not to get into an argument with you, Kate, because I respect you too and understand your point of view, but my problem with too many of my fellow progressives is that they are too quick to mount a holier-than-thou podium and are too dismissive of genuine mainstream emotional reactions. It's why they are often depicted as elitist.

As for pointing out that I'm sharing my "high-fiving" with Bush, Rumsfeld et al, you remind me of a Colbert piece last week when he jumped on Charles Manson's comments about global warming and was happy to tar all global-warming believers with, "Oh you agree with Manson." That kind of guilt-by-association never sits well with me.

This doesn't mean we can't have the discussion about where this country is going - as far as I'm concerned, we've been having it - nor does this justify our continued military presence in three different Middle East locations. But am I glad the bastard's dead? You bet.
Kate, I agree with you all the way. It's as though we won some sort of cosmic World Series. The euphoria is cocky and brash and arrogant (right in there with Good job Brownie, and Mission Accomplished) and yet it is more emblamatic of the failure of our world and of the human race. Yes, this "accomplishment" is a milestone but hardly cause for euphoria and celebration.
ok---attempt #2 to comment. NO FAIR! I expected to disagree with you (after your comment on my page) and I don't! Way too much glee. Like we just won the super bowl. It was a necessary step. The right step.

And, as i tried to say in my post that I'm guessing will be read solely by you and I, there was an historical and religious underpinning to the President's decision. But this is not the Indy 500. I did not see the President taking a victory lap. And I appreciated that.
Cranky - As usual, you make very good points. I don't feel that we're arguing, just discussing a difference of opinion. I don't think I'm in the mainstream as far as my progressive/liberal point of view , however. I think, from what I've been seeing and reading - that I'm definitely in the minority. You also make a valid point in my opinion, on the guilt by association angle of things. Still, whenever something is going on in this country, especially when it concerns anything military-related or such, whether Bush on the aircraft carrier, the invasion of Iraq, anything that smacks of that "U.S.A. Rocks" idea, then it seems that people by the millions just get swept up in it. Hear the President's speech and just feel real great about it - victorious almost. Instead perhaps of really looking at what he has to say, and what it means, and what it suggests and what he's conveniently leaving out. A calm, considered, even more pacifist approach to things, is often considered elitist, or attacked on its own - not going along with the majority - not conforming adequately. That might be me today.
Walter - Oh, how nice to see YOU today!!! Much appreciated comment, I'm not as alone as I thought. Plus, you just said it so well! Whether a post or a comment, that's what I love about writing - the clarity and finesse someone brings to words and ideas.

Roger - I swear...you make me laugh! Okay, I'm going to go back over to your post - let's crank up the hits...anyway, I want to see if you responded to my comment. Of course, like you said, that's on the hopeful premise that this thing works for me...it's been a bitch all day. And, the glee should definitely be relegated to Tuesday nights at 8pm! At least in my opinion!
I might have known that I would find a rational reaction to this killing here at Kate Flannery's blog.

You obviously do not have any issues with the killing of Mr. bin Laden. I do not either. As I read your entry, your issue is with the unseemliness of the reaction. I have bigger issues with it than you do. It reminds me very much of the Texas folks who are wont to hold a hog roast outside the penitentiary and then whoop and holler when an inmate is put to death, chanting “Nah, nah, nah, nah; nah, nah, nah, nah; Hey Hey Hey. Goodbye!”

A soberer reaction is called for, but it is a free country. Everyone is entitled to make an ass out of himself by dancing around waving a flag and chanting “U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A.” As for me, I chose to exercise my freedom by staying as far away as possible from those making asses of themselves right now.

We will get by this, you and I. The types who celebrate in this fashion are the ones with the short attention spans. They will have forgotten about this in a few days.
I agree, this is not a yee hah moment. I am embarrassed at the reaction. It should be one of somber reflection.
Brassawe - Ah, thank you! You made my day! I too, have bigger issues with it than just the reaction, but my post was going for the simplest of my many thoughts, as otherwise it could have turned into a long, long treatise, and I wasn't in the mood. I have a feeling our thoughts and reasoning might perhaps run along similiar lines - we shall see as the posts - both yours and mine, continue. In any event, I also thought of the throngs outside the killing fields of Texas prisons. And, as was noted by someone else I read today, the angry and disgusted reactions of Americans when they saw film footage of Arabs cheering the attacks here in 2001 - they were called barbarians when they cheered at death here, but since we're "morally superior" it's all in good taste for "us" to be cheering when it's one of them. Yes, Brassawe, my feelings are far more complex and involved than this post directs itself to.
Rita - Good to hear - one by one, we're crawling out of the woodwork, as it were, and it's nice to have some agreement. I wasn't expecting much if any with my post today.
. . . in a few days after the parade, that is. Surely, there has to be a parade, does there not? Mr. Obama is a politician after all. I do not see how he can pass up a chance to lock arms with the men who accomplished this so that some of their heroism--and heroism it was--can rub off on him. Perhaps he will even graciously invite George W. Bush to share in this. We shall see.

If that happens, just keep your television turned off for another couple of days. I do not have one to turn on.
A couple more points and then I’m through, Kate. I realize that nearly everything about this war on terror is misbegotten. It was misbegotten yesterday, it is misbegotten today, it will be misbegotten tomorrow. But that doesn’t change the fact that eliminating the man who caused the death of 3,000 people is a good thing. That makes today a good day. To me, it’s simple as that.

If good things result from bad policies, should we not accept the good things? If, for example, the Iraqi people end up having a genuine democracy, should I not be happy for them, even though the war that enabled it was an awful decision? If, for example, the Bush tax cuts actually led to job creation, should I not be happy for the friend who got a job as a result? Sometimes, I think smart people think too much.
Kate, despite your comment on my post on this topic, I think we agree far more than we disagree. If I had my druthers, the SEALS would have captured him and brought him to the American brand of justice. After which he would be executed. According to them, he fired on them first, so they had to take him out right there. Either way, bin Laden would have been dead at our hands.

I am utterly mortified by the cheering and partying in the streets. That had not started at the time I wrote my post. My position was simply now that it's done, we need to make the most of it politcally.
As I pointed out on another post, even a vile character like Osama bin Laden has people who love him and for that reason alone the jubilation is just plain wrong.

Lezlie
It's very disturbing, yes. The vile rot that seethes just beneath the surface, all coming up for air. And it doesn't change one damn thing "over there".
-r-
I'm with Cranky on this. Of course, I'm with Cranky on most issues to the extent that some people think we're alter egos. If so, the gun issue should put that nefarious conspiracy theory to rest. I agree that killing Osama was a good thing, a necessary thing. I personally feel sad that what happened in Pakistan yesterday had to happen. But, then, I feel sad that our civilization is a thin veneer that, while we struggle as a species to keep it in place, we know full well it doesn't do an adequate job of masking the primitive forces from which we have not yet evolved.

Yet, though personally I cringe at the public displays of joy at Bin Laden's execution (I mistakenly used the word "assassination" in comments elsewhere) I think it's unfair to smear all of the celebrants with the same brush, assuming they're troglodytes of the Bush/Cheney ilk. I don't know from which depths of private experience have sprung these powerful emotions and I should feel arrogant and condescending were I to judge them for their jubilation, however unseemly.

My own elation stems from a mix of limbic recognition that something evil has been removed, and, more importantly, that the action taken by Obama virtually guarantees his re-election to to a second term. And this is cause for a collective sigh of relief of gale-force intensity from anyone who recognizes that no matter how flawed Obama may be as a man and a president, he towers above all other potential contenders for the job. Had he bungled this in some way, or presided over a bungling of the maneuver as Carter presided over the tragic bungling of the Iran hostage rescue attempt, a second term for Obama would have vanished into thin air. That prospect should be intolerable for progressive liberals. If it isn't and we allow wistful disappointment in realpolitik to dilute and fragment the support Obama needs to stay in office, then, as de Tocqueville warned so wisely so long ago, we surely shall get the government we deserve.
Kate in moments such as these, a person must distinguish betw overdone expressions of elation and serious ethical defense of the pursuit of justice. in this case, justice includes showing evil men that we do not stop the pursuit of justice and in bringing a measure of it to the families of those who were murdered.
It seems to me that most of the people getting swept up in the USA Rocks -- at least in DC -- were small children when 9/11 happens. They have grown in this bad old world, not knowing much different. Tomorrow will come, terrorists are still out there waiting to "get us", let the young people have their celebrations. The hatred and vitriol will still be there tomorrow.
It won't make one bit of difference. The soldiers in Afghanistan will still wake up tomorrow with the same guns pointed at them. Irrationality knows no leader, except itself.
Maurene - Yes...that struck me too.

Lezlie - I totally get what you're saying and understand the time frame. Makes things clearer - because I do feel that we are of a similiar attitude on a lot of things - which is always so nice to find. I suppose my comment was colored by what I had seen already and a number of other comments that I read - thereby feeling outside the "norm" of consensus - but I understand more fully now. Yes, when I saw the news...I was like okay...fine... But then the revelry began all around me and I was shocked - as you were.

skinnydave - You said it!

Matt - You are one smart dude! Seriously, I'm not being sarcastic. Highly intelligent and articulate comment with lots of points to think about and contemplate. I love what you said about the thin veneer - very cool and wise - and I concur with that. I don't though see a lot of other things the same way you do. Perhaps many of the revelers are not of the same ilk as Bush/Cheney - (and I'm not talking about people that are simply glad he's gone) - but as for judging - well, people judge behavior all the time. It's a part of how we keep ourselves safe, or away from unsavory characters - or give one a little insight into someone else's character. This is what the great majority of Americans tend to do about a lot of things - just get swept up in the nationalistic furor. This does not appeal to me. This does not sway me to have respect for certain people and certain behavior. If that's elitist, then one can call me that. If that makes me arrogant or condescending in someone else's eyes - then I suppose, so be it. But, I've seen this before - and it brought us Freedom Fries and you're with us or against us - and the largest part of this country went along with it. And berated or called elitist or whatever - anyone who didn't agree.

toritto - justice is fine with me, too. Now that they got some for bin laden, can the rest of us have some at home?

Brassawe - Oh, what a great point about the parade - the very idea is nauseating. Oh, seriously. And I agree with you about the men who did this being heroic...the very thought of such bravery is amazing to me in a certain way - but good grief...the whole scenario...Bush...and all...joining together in the realization of eliminating bin laden...Seriously...I usually don't turn my TV on except to watch a couple of things I adore...but I might have to blow it up if anything like this takes place.

Cranky - Oh, darling, you can keep coming around...I feel honored! But seriously, I'm always interested in what you have to say. And I do know that you and I agree on a lot of things...a lot of them. If you're having a good day, I don't condemn you for that, and I wouldn't lose respect for you either. I doubt you're strutting down the avenue with a party hat on (but I could be wrong, I suppose). In any event, I think you might have called me "smart" - ? That was really sweet, if you did, and I appreciate it, if you did, but maybe you didn't...I'm not sure. My husband tells me sometimes that I think too much...and maybe I do. Right now, I'm not sure...I'm hungry and need some dinner. It's been a long day.
I'm happy the bastard's dead- and I hope like hell this gives Obama a boost in the polls and an edge in 2012, but the crowds screaming U-S-A, U-S-A, like their team just won a big game, seemed a mindless, moronic and embarrassing channeling of George W and Company...
the people of the usa are unaware of, or uncaring of, what their government has done to bring the retribution inspired and directed by bin laden. so they were deeply aggrieved by the 'mysterious' 9/11 attacks, and deeply joyful to kill their demon threat.

there is nothing to be done about willful ignorance, let them dance. death will continue to appear out of nowhere, but let them chant: "usa! usa! usa!

it's too bad you can't enjoy the mindless bloodlust, because the occasional bits of return fire are just as likely to kill the good as the bad.
perhaps an outsider's point of view?
I am not an American. I am an American citizen but by culture and heritage I am other. Which colors my perceptions and they are very different from mainlanders.
I was watching T.V. when the President's announcement came on. First I was startled. Then I was numb. In a sense, it reminded me of other executions of other citizens of other countries (stress intended). I felt the more things change the more they are the same.
I think that were people truly honest, this death does not bring any justice, no redress of wrongs. That is an impossibility in any context. It does not change what was. What happened. I would understand, logically not emotionally, that this fits the definition of revenge more than anything else. It would be completely logical and unarguable. But saying so sounds horribly petty.
Revenge is a dish best served cold.
In the end, it is up to those who suffered personally (and I am not one of them) to decide whether his death brings them closure or not. Maybe it is too soon to tell.
America's spinning down its last tube, so people claw and scrape at any scrap of news they think proves they're powerful once again. It sounds especially dim and hollow this time around. The guy did every terrible thing he ever wanted to do.
He was an iconic Boogey Man. Sadly, the structural inequities in Palestine still exist. Until this fundamental truth is addressed, nothing will change. The fault is in employing a Great-Man view of History and a psychological reductionism that ignores powerful socio-historical forces operating in the region.
Oh Kate--I can't tell you how happy I was to read your post. (I've got that very same list of like-minded people!) I may reiterate what's already been said because I didn't the below comments--I'm just too tired. When I heard the news last night--picking up my son from the airport--my heart suffered another little nick. A large one actually.

I couldn't help but think about all the knuckleheads rejoicing in the days to come. I couldn't help but think that in the grand scope of things, the killing was meaningless. Anticlimactic. I felt dread is what I felt. Because this is so much more than just an eye for an eye. They'll be back at us, they'll power up now. I felt depressed, too, because this is going to have a major negative impact on our economy. I know, I'm a doomsayer this evening, but I'm also confused! This news really sidelined me. I wish we had captured the guy and let him rot in an American prison. But we prefer the death penalty.

Party on America. Give our global neighbors more reason to hate this country. Duh.
Btw- does anyone want to talk about our reliance on the Middle East?
Never mind the timing of this event...
(And the incredible malfunctioning OS?!)
Aaarrrggghhh.
Agree with you 100%. Those who disagree sound needlessly defensive, when their opinion is the popular one.
Jonathan - You lost me with "evil." If we're going to talk about "evil" then to my mind, what about Bush, Cheney and more evil acts that the U.S. has performed than I can count.

themanhattankid - What won't make a difference? Celebrating? If that's what you meant, I certainly agree.

Ian - Good point about channeling W etc.

Al - I agree...many people aren't aware or are uncaring or mired in their idea of exceptionalism...not me though.

vanessa - A very calm, reasoned comment, that is well met by me.
Doc - Yes...good point...well said.
Jayne - There we go again...two peas in a pod. I'm not frightened of terrorism - not in any sort of visceral way...I mean, what's the point. But it did occur to me that any minute there will be all sorts of new warnings, maybe more civil liberties shredded (if indeed we actually have any left at this point), more excuses, more justification for more war...and on and on it goes. And I love that you have the same list...they keep me company when I'm feeling outside the gate -which is often.

Snippy - Well said - although i do have a bit of a crush on Cranky so I can't hold anything against him!
We've won when I can get on a plane without having to disrobe, or not have to worry about a police officer comingto my house when I've written a blog.
Maurene and Kate equivocate the celebration of the killing of thousands of civilians with the celebration of the killing of the man who financed, helped plan, and took credit for it?

Yeah, I'm going to have to emphatically disagree with that. I'm not a dancing in the streets kind of guy, but I am happy bin Laden is dead, and even happier he was killed by the United States military.
OE - Yeah...me too.

Leeds - Not a problem hearing a different viewpoint. It's much easier, I think anyway, having opinions and viewpoints that mesh with the larger American viewpoint. No doubt about that. Believe me, I wish I could look at things in a more black and white fashion - much more relaxing in a certain way.
Kate, you probably missed my post on the same subject, written immediately after the announcement.

I've gotten some of the same remonstrations from some of the same people....and I've also gotten some private messages thanking me for making many of the same points you've made.

I am probably going to piss off some more people because I am not done with this issue.

I believe this kind of extra-legal behavior has to be questioned. Agreed, OBL was indicted in 1995 and 1998 for two bombing incidents....but he was never tried, never convicted. He was never even indicted for 9/11 as far as I can tell.

Was he guilty? Hell, yes. Am I grieving? Hell, no. Am I disgusted by the way the mass media has climbed on board this event? Yes. Am I angered by the way in which the media and every elected representative who could find someone with a microphone fueled the flames of those demonstrations?

Duh.
Alan - I'm not grieving either, nor debating whether he was a good or a bad guy. But yes, I agree with your points as to the reaction and the willful amnesia of so many who should know better. Take it in stride - fine...whatever. But the jubilation...the "glad the bastard is dead" I just don't get. I don't get Obama's speech...that so many thought was so wonderful. I found it distasteful and hypocritical. I have a critical mind, and I can't just put aside what's true or what isn't just or what isn't balanced or what doesn't really add up - just because it's more convenient or it's the general opinion of so many. I'm not a go with the flow kind of person...I'm the log that mucks up the works - and I'm not necessarily proud of that - it's just who I am. And in times of feeling way out of the mainstream, I remember that George was too...and I'd rather be in his company (or my father's - a man of unshakable principle) than to be American-pc- Loved your post. Just read it a bit before.
I've been taking a lot of flack for my post Show Some Restraint in which I expressed similar feelings:

http://open.salon.com/blog/tom_cordle/2011/05/03/show_some_restraint
You may take comfort in the knowledge that at least one American hasn't had a brain seizure over this murder of a man who has never been convicted, or even tried, of any charges. The only evidence against him was government proffered video tapes and a whole lot of government propaganda, innuendo, and not-so-subtle bald-faced bullshit.

How odd that he'd have made such tapes that offer nothing to his followers but so neatly inflame Americans to support ridiculous government "counter-measures" against - not so much "the enemy"- as against American citizens!!!

Jingoism is exactly the right term.......!!

.
Well, leaving a bit of room for Conspiracy Nutz who believe that bin Laden was killed in Tora Bora, the burial at sea aimed to prevent that revelation from seeing oxygen, it matters not if people rush to the streets to cheer.

Soon enough they grow hoarse and go back inside, maybe to do something productive as Cranky suggests. Looking back, I wonder what would have come of euphoric celebration if Obama had extended his arm over the Gulf and stopped the oil leak.

So there you have it. Now I get to report you, you and you on AttackWatch. I'm tired of being the only one in America that hears the 'click' when I make a phone call. I'm thinking of writing an App that makes my phone blink wildly when someone else is tapped in.
Maybe I'll use it as a nightlight, or party favor.
Thanks for this. Bin Laden's death was a anti-climactic for me. I'm with you on finding the celebrating repulsive. I've never admired the spike in the end-zone or the exuberant high five. I despised the ticker tape parade after the Gulf War, and the chest-thumping number one kick-ass wallowing in self-congratulatory excess. Jingoism is the right word for it. It was a nasty job. Someone had to do it. Thank God it's over. Enough said. Let's remain sober and dignified about the unavoidable nasty business, but also let's remember to avoid as much of it as we can.

All in all, I felt President Obama remained fairly dignified about it. He wasn't triumphal, but matter of fact. And he hasn't gone out of his way to claim credit for himself.

I wish the nation as a whole had more insight into the nature of conflict, and the wisdom to avoid the trap of Manichean binary simplicity. Osama bin Laden was a human being. He loved his children. He liked to eat dates and yogurt, and he loved horses. He was not an evil man who wanted to kill for no reason. He simply calculated justness according to a different set of rules. In his mind his hatred of the US was as justifiable as any just cause the US prosecutes with lethal violence. The conflict was an unfortunate tragedy, and we had good reasons to disagree with bin Laden, but there remains an undeniable tragic element to the entire mess, and there is no reason to reduce ourselves to barbarism by jubilant dancing on someone's grave.
Jeff...Thank you. I think you summed things up very expertly in your comment. I so enjoy reading or hearing the opinions and observations of thoughtful, well-informed people - certainly not as common an event as one would hope.