When I woke up this morning, I heard the news that Osama Bin Laden was killed. My immediate reaction?
“Great – will I be able to bring more than 3 oz. of liquid or gel on a plane now though?”
When you think about it, the litany of insane security regulations we’ve adopted since 9/11 are sort of Bin Laden’s legacy – being forced to take your shoes off at the airport, being x-rayed before you can visit the Statue of Liberty, etc. But now that he’s dead, only his legacy will live on… and that just doesn’t seem right to me.
Given all the hate and rage we directed at this guy, why are we letting the things that constitute his legacy live on, even after we’ve killed him? I kind of imagine him laughing at us from beyond the grave as we continue to shuffle the elderly, children, etc., through body-scanning machines after making them wait in line for an hour just to pass onto a plane. Or as we continue to arrest/harass photographers. Or any of a dozen other crazy things we do, all in the name of “making us safer from terrorists.”
And that brings me to another point. Bin Laden’s death brought me absolutely no satisfaction, because I had stopped considering him a threat years and years ago. Instead, given the media circus that is naturally going to follow this event, I feel sort of like a bully who’s bragging now about finally being able to punch out that kid we didn’t like. I mean, effectively, we killed this guy for one reason: revenge. And that doesn’t make us look (or feel) very noble or enlightened, as we claim to be.
This is further complicated by the fact that it took nearly 10 years to find this guy. This length of time just diminishes the effect of his death. If it had been a year later, or 3 years, or even 5 years, it would not have been as bad… but 10 years later? Even though we killed him in the end, he did manage to elude us for 10 years. It kind of makes it into a hollow victory, in a way.
In a way, I think that the death of Bin Laden is going to be just a minor footnote in history – although the media will undoubtedly blow it out of proportion and make it out to be the most major victory against terrorism ever (they have started blowing their trumpets already). The real victory will be when I don’t have to take my shoes off at the airport anymore, or when every federal building, no matter how small, has armed guards and you have to go through a security screening just to enter.
As I said on Twitter shortly after I heard the news:
Now that Bin Laden is dead, we should be screaming for a reduction in our over-zealous security policy. If we make the death of Bin Laden out to be a big deal, then naturally this means we can relax our security. On the other hand, if we largely ignore this, then our security will stay the way it is, because the “enemy” is not someone we can kill, since it’s just an idea. And that’s what “perpetual war” is all about… but that’s a topic for another day.
Once we repeal some (or all!) of the stupid security laws we’ve enacted since 9/11, then we’ll have something to celebrate about. When we stop being afraid of our own shadow and every “suspicious” person, then we’ll be able to say “we won.”
I’ll keep my fingers crossed.