bin Laden’s death, the day after

Melissa and I heard the call to turn on the television for a major announcement last night from, of all places, “World of Warcraft.” She was playing on the couch, and I had the television tied up with a Playstation game when people in her guild started talking about the President making a surprise announcement to the country in 10 minutes’ time. I took a few minutes to switch over and find CNN, and managed to start following when Wolf Blitzer and the rest of the talking heads were still trying to determine what, exactly, in the hell was going on.

Once it became clear what was going to be announced, I paid just as much attention – if not more – to my rapidly-changing streams of status updates on Twitter and Facebook, especially once CNN hit the “we have nothing new to say, so we’re going to talk to fill time” wall around 15 minutes after President Obama was originally announced to be addressing the country.

I threw a lot of jokes around in the living room with Melissa as we were watching CNN’s coverage of what was happening, and shared with her some of the stuff that was showing up online. But I didn’t really feel the need to contribute anything to the Internet snark that was going around. There were the jokes you could’ve predicted right away – @GhostOsama and @OsamainHell sprang up on Twitter almost immediately (neither of which are actually very funny), references to Galafinaki in “The Hangover,” etc., and some of it was genuinely clever and funny. I just felt more comfortable consuming than I did in contributing.

It also didn’t seem worthwhile to respond to the few people who posted about being disgusted by the celebration of the death of a human being; those sentiments, while appropriate at face value and in general terms, hold no validity in a situation like this, where the man whose death was being celebrated would have preferred to slay the person who was concerned about his humanity and display his or her head on a pike, just for fun, rather than speak to them. Yes, he was a person and he had a family and he had feeling and all of that. He also desperately wanted to see you, personally, and all of your friends and family dead in the street. So does it seem weird to be celebrating the fact that we killed somebody? Sure, I’ll grant you that. Is it inherently bad? In this case, you’d have a tough time convincing me of that.

The most enjoyable thing about all of this has been reading about the SEAL team that pulled this off. Having been raised on Army bases until I was in high school, I grew up with the military just being a part of life. We crawled around on tanks when they’d bring them to show off at school or other public events on the bases, we’d go down ziplines after being strapped into harnesses by Army Rangers, and once we even watched my dad help shoot down drones with a shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile. I’m fascinated by the type of people it takes to engage in an operation like that; going in on helicopters in the dead of night, as much at risk to the Pakistani air force finding them out and shooting them down, either on the way in or the way out, as they were to whatever mostly unknown forces were stashed behind the 18-foot concrete walls of bin Laden’s bunker. For them to get in, achieve their mission and get out without losing anyone on their team is remarkable and astonishing. It’s action-movie fiction come to life. Years down the road when the details of the operation are declassified and the men who took part are allowed to talk about what they did yesterday, the stories will be amazing.

It’s been a very interesting day to be an American, that’s for certain. And it’ll be equally interesting to see how the world reacts.

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