Anything Can Happen

And always does when you least expect it...

Osam bin Laden is dead.

Just as many Americans were pausing to wonder what has been going on in our country and how we were going to dig ourselves out of the economic hole we've created, something happens that changes the course of history. Ten long years after the events of September 11, 2001, Osama bin Laden is dead, killed by us and we are certain since we have his body. It is the symbolic end of an era when the American psyche, consciously or otherwise, doubted itself and ability to capture a criminal who was the mastermind of a tragic event. His death cannot be underestimated. Carried along with our doubt was a lot of other baggage about the American Spirit and ability to rise above and be...well, American. The impact of this event should cause us to reassure ourselves that we are capable of anything we set our minds to.

His death will do little for the economic predicament we find ourselves in but should reinforce our sense of being able to resolve it. The real estate/mortgage problem, currency crisis, unemployment and low GDP and productivity among other issues aren't going away. What this should do is restore Americans faith in themselves to rise above and in the long term eventually overcome any obstacle. Over the next few days and weeks much discussion will go on and it is certain the political class will have a field day regarding Bush and Obama and who was able to capture and kill Osama bin Laden. The people who thrive on the fear of terrorism for a living will continue to hyper warn us, in a sense they're reminiscent of anti-communists when the Cold War was over. Terrorism is still a threat and we need to remain vigilant, but what we need to learn from this is that fear mongering is not the best weapon, that believing in our own power to defeat evil is. When all the noise dies down is when the truth will come out and the result will be that everyday Americans will have renewed faith in our ability to restore ourselves to the country we should be.

The oddity of the situation is that the attacks of 9-11 were intended to destroy the financial capital of the world and America's preeminence in the global economy. In some measure it did so indirectly, although it didn't collapse our markets immediately, in the long view in many ways it did. We should have taken more notice at the time of the message that was being sent, a message not necessarily from Islamic terrorists but a note to ourselves. We ignored it after the sentimental pop and country songs and tributes ran their course and we went headlong into consuming everything in sight. We pumped up our economy to feel good and did very little reflection on what had happened and how it could. The time for blame and recriminations about who did and who didn't do what is over, now is the time to revive the American Spirit and undertake the long hard road back to economic health.


  1. I woke up (for some reason) at about 12:30 this morning, and I did what I almost never do when I wake up at some weird time: I went down and turned on the TV. I saw pictures of crowds and a graphic stating that bin Laden was dead...maybe it was the hour or the circumstances but the whole thing seemed surreal to me.

    I stayed up a while, long enough to see the crowds build and hear a replay of the president's speech which was long enough for the conspiracy theorist in me to get cranked up and running. Is he REALLY dead? Has he been dead all along? Is this some stunt Obama's pulling to steal the thunder from the royal wedding? You know...those kinds of things.

    But then I stopped and asked myself a question I've asked myself many times over the years:

    "If you are in a burning building and you are near a window and you know there is no hope of living, do you choose to burn to death or do you jump 1,000 feet?"

    I can't think of a more horrible thing to be forced to consider. And whatever else was going on with 9/11, Osama bin Laden directly or indirectly forced MANY people to make that choice. Osama bin Laden made people jump out of skyscrapers because, to those poor people in those buildings, IT SEEMED LIKE THE BEST ANSWER. I can be as cynical regarding humanity as most people, but I honestly cannot remotely feel the lack of humanity it would require to even begin to understand how a human being could find that scenario desirable. You can blame it on strict Muslim hatred of the west and its culture, but only to an extent. It's one thing to hate someone or something; it's another to cause that person horrific psychological pain as you force them to die. It's pure evil. That's all I can say.

    I think bin Laden's death is more than a symbolic victory over hatred; I think it's something the warm-hearted people of this country (and the rest of the world, really) needed, even if we didn't know we needed it. I hate the word "closure" because I think some things aren't supposed to be gotten over, but I think his death will provide a lot of grief-stricken people with a chance to finally take a slightly-relaxed deep breath, and I think it will uplift the rest of us from some unconscious depression we may not have even known we had.

    All I know is, I feel better knowing he's not around. And part of me is tempted to say I hope he suffered great pain in the process of dying and that he was fully aware that it was Americans who were inflicting it. I admit that it won't break my heart one bit if that's what happened...but the better side of me just looks out the window and listens to the birds and pets the cats and thinks: damn, I'm just glad he's gone.

    Truly a great post, JR. Thank you.

  2. I was unable to answer your comments on yesterday due to some glitch on Blogger. You had cogent comments and I had good replies but hadn't pasted them to put them back in. Anyway, thanks for those.

    I will say that Vince Gill is one of my all time favorites...mostly because of his unrecognized behind the scenes work and his versatility. Like Springsteen and Dylan there are a lot of his songs I really like and others...not so much. I think you should listen to “Young Man’s Town.” There’s a good live version from ACM awards on YT http://bit.ly/kPva5M

    I dislike the word closure also but I do think this goes a long way for us to, as you state most excellently: "a chance to finally take a slightly-relaxed deep breath, and I think it will uplift the rest of us from some unconscious depression we may not have even known we had."

    It gives all of us a chance also I think to recognize that we did, in the end, get the perpetrator and justice. That should cast away any lingering doubt anyone might have had that "they got away with it." I'm hoping it will give us the psychological lift we need, while still recognizing we're in bad economic shape, that we can overcome and restore our economy and ourselves.