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Monday, May 2, 2011

Relief, jubilation, and petulance

The killing of Osama bin Laden was an occasion for Americans defining themselves.

There is legitimate concern over the spontaneous demonstrations outside the White House and at Ground Zero, and other places, which appeared to be prompted by a state of jubilation over bin Laden's death. However, the demonstrations were dominated by young people, and I do not interpret their buoyancy as delight in a death as much as a huge sign of relief and expression of hope. Our youth has grown up under the corrosive cloud of 9/11. Public conversation has been taken over by the concerns about terrorism and the wars into which those concerns have plunged us. The jubilation and celebration was not glee at a death, but a renewed sense of hope after a malignant tumor has been removed.

The incident also inspires hope in another dimension. After watching 4,500 casualties mount in Iraq and 1,500 in Afghanistan, plus the multitudes of debilitating wounds, physical and mental, people see a prospect that maybe we can extricate ourselves from wars which have consumed so much of our nation and are one of the big contributors to our national deficit. The removal of bin Laden was conducted with a deftness and a cleanness that is seldom present in the way we confront our national challenges.

The incident also defines the split personality that currently defines American character. On one hand, people are relieved and appreciative and proud of a country that offers another chance at freedom and peace. On the other hand, for many it was merely an occasion to pule with petulance and resentment over the fact that a man they detest was commander-in-chief over this mission.  Any pride one might have in the country is soon purged by the puling malevolence. 

I was reading a compendium of statements made by politicians and was struck by how strenuously some of them avoided giving President Obama and his team any credit or mention.  Some, in excesses of juvenile spite, mentioned only George W. Bush.  These people soon dampen any hope of restoring our nation to some level of intelligence and magnanimity.  

Obviously, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates played a key role in defining and coordinating the task given to the military after Leon Panetta and the intelligence agencies presented it for action.  The petulance is unbecoming and soon dashes any reason for feeling proud and hopeful about the country again. 

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States