03 May 2011

Some more final thoughts

- I'm not concerned or happy that Osama is dead. What concerns me is the cost that a society bears in order to work lethal justice upon a chosen few, regardless of how self-evidentially they appear to deserve death. It seems a whole lot cheaper to go after a lot more who would work often considerable damage themselves, and devise strategies in foreign policy to do so (along with our criminal justice policies more generally where the death penalty costs us far more than life without parole AND leaves us with less messy moral complications of errors in our judgments)
- Osama bin Laden, or even Islamic radicalism more broadly, never was an existential threat. We reacted as though he was. For my part, it would be nice if we reacted to his death as though the existential threat is gone then, gave medals to the soldiers involved and declared victory, and just collectively pretended the war was over. The actual physical risks to terrorist acts most of us would suffer from doing so would be vanishingly small and not worth worrying about. The actual physical risk increase of terrorist acts in the fallout of this event itself is vanishingly small and should be ignored. Yet the overwhelming majority of people seem to think we need to ratchet up the security level in the wake, not decrease it or even keep it where it absurdly was and call it even. Maybe there's some psychological benefit to pretending that we have more levels of security to deploy than we are currently employing. But we don't (all we have is more levels of citizen harassment and debasement).
- My own memories of 9-11 are somewhat distinct from most, and I don't recall sensations of rage and a desire for revenge. I recall instead the sense of unity and brotherhood that the damage to our collective psyche had the unfortunate ability to call out from us, somewhat temporarily. Then we went back to "fuck you!" to the guy who cut us off in traffic when we were the one running a stop sign, after a couple minutes of humanity and basic decency. I'm somehow not surprised to see that this sense of ... oneness?, was not restored by killing someone associated with the initial tragedy.
- As a result, it sort of surprised me to see so many of my social media companions expressing concerns that the public face of our reactions seemed to be celebratory and to see calls for an abiding sense of humanity and mutual respect, even love. Our hatreds must have grown powerful, but I am somewhat heartened from my usually persistent cynical mood to see a few friendly faces in the crowd of bile.
- I was also not surprised to see people busy trying to play politics. To those who hadn't been paying attention, there is and wasn't a GOP candidate who had a chance in hell of winning BOTH the GOP primary AND the 2012 election (at least who was running, Mitch Daniels doesn't appear to be running, Romney wasn't winning the primary and nobody else yet in the field has a chance in hell of beating Obama in a national election where Democrats and moderates have votes). This probably clinched that barring some veeeeeerrrrry sluggish economic performances over the next year or so, and/or any large scale terrorist incidents. So it doesn't surprise me to see a lot of people who didn't like Obama, mostly conservatives, busy trying to exercise a lot of mental contortions to get out of having to assign him any credit to this event whatsoever so they can pretend to have a need to vote against him as some sort of "weakling" (nevermind his actual record for efficiently killing Muslim terrorists or deporting immigrants or whatever your conservative credential bugaboos are). Look, I don't like the guy either. If I have the option, I'll actually vote for Gary Johnson in a second over Obama. This whole Libya mess combined with a terrible civil liberties record (other than maybe on gay rights issues, it is at least as bad as Bush other than the torture, and I'd hold Bush down somewhere with Nixon and Wilson as one of our worst civil liberties upholding Presidents since Buchanan or Pierce, and Obama so far isn't doing very well either), pretty mediocre economic policy viewpoint (predictable for any national candidate from either party, more so for one tied in with both Unions and Wall St), and a very mixed record on other core issues like education policy doesn't impress me. So if it comes up that he doesn't deserve credit for something (the way we've somehow collectively decided that FDR and the New Deal got us out of the Depression, when in fact he bungled us into a second one), I'll be happy to let you know. This one, seems like it is fine so far.

Save the screaming and talking points for something that actually matters.
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