May 2, 2011: A Justifiable Act of Violence

I found out about two unforgettable things today. (1) Osama Bin Laden is dead, and (2) Rush Limbaugh actually said something positive about Obama. Yesterday, I would have told you both things had the slimmest of chances of occurring. So much for intuition.

After hearing the news this morning, I’ve been glued to the internet, like most flag-waving Americans, trying to make sense of such an epic day. What does it mean? What should it mean? What will it mean?

(In case you missed it, here’s Obama’s address.)

I’m not sure, and I don’t even know if I’ll ever fully grasp the answers to those questions or fully comprehend how far the ripple of such an event will impact the future. I am certain, however, that I thought about the same thing most Americans did after they saw the bold lettering on today’s front page:  my generation’s Pearl Harbor, our very own Kennedy Assassination.

Pardon the crude and even morbid comparison, but it’s how we must encapsulate it, in blunt brutality and horror. It was as if all of us, the pure concept of America, had been violently raped in spirit. Our sense of peace and security had been shredded by a vicious, quick act, our notion of invulnerability was made very vulnerable, and in just the span of one morning, the world around us became a very terrifying, untrustworthy place. On that day, we didn’t want justice. That’s too soft of a word. We wanted blood by the righteous gallon, and we were frothing at the mouth for it.

We’re magnetically drawn back to that day because yesterday marks the end of what started on 9/11…well, sort of. It’s over in the sense that “justice has been served,” as Obama said, to Osama Bin Laden. Emotionally, we can lean back a little further in our chairs because our 10-year-old thirst for basic revenge has been quenched, but our guard, our defense, can’t take the same luxury. In terms of the great fight, we’ll never be finished. There will always be a second-in-command, and after them, another successor to a successor to a successor.

The other thing all of us are thinking about is who should claim this victory. Whom do we point at? Who’s to become an icon? Some say Obama, others say Bush. Perhaps it’s both, because after all, there’s enough cheer to go around.

But one thing is certain, the people we’ve called our heroes throughout this whole saga—specifically, those who aren’t around to gather any esteem—deserve it the most. This isn’t a day to be red or blue, this is a day to be red, white and blue. Yes, I know, that’s undeniably as corny as it gets, but it couldn’t be any truer.  So wave any flag you’ve got, for Obama, for Bush, for the 9/11 victims, for the heroic firefighters, for everybody, for yourself, for whomever, or maybe just because.

This feeling we have won’t last forever, just like it faded out in the months preceding 9/11, so grasp it in while you can. Not only is it a day to be patriotic, but it is the only day (hopefully) that you’ll feel sheer ecstasy over someone’s cruel end. That’s a strange sentiment—not felt, I imagine, since exactly 66 years ago—but then again it’s a justifiable act of violence and it’s rare.

Someday, we’ll look back on days like today, or days like yesterday…and we’ll just look back.

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