Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The division of unity

The death of Osama bin Laden showed that there's nothing apolitical left in American society. While there was a reaction of jubilation stemming from perhaps justifiable quasi-jingoism—manifesting in private thoughts of "we got him" to masses celebrating in the streets of New York and chants of "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!..." at baseball games—the initial unified joy at the news our most hated enemy was brought to justice gave way to the need to apportion the credit.

Those on the Right dismissed Obama's role and cited how he was merely continuing what Bush had started, and was merely the one who happened to be behind the desk in the Oval Office at the time the mission came up. Those on the Left probably felt good that because it happened under Obama's watch (so to speak) and could appreciate it more without having to reconcile it with their distaste of the previous administration; there may have been some subconscious relief the commander-in-chief at the time made an announcement with decorum in the East Wing rather than with a huge banner on an aircraft carrier.

(There was a similar division between people who held an attitude of (let's put it as) "Fuck yeah! Rot in hell, bin Laden!" and people who thought celebrating the death of a human being—even one who had been responsible for such atrocities—was inappropriate, but I'm not sure that could be separated down party lines so neatly.)

The Democrats undoubtedly hope this will seem like a victory for the President and be a feather in his cap for the 2012 election; the Republicans undoubtedly fear that exact same thing. And although that is still 18 months away (give or take a couple days) undoubtedly there's plenty of people on both sides who are already thinking of how to spin this, positively or negatively, to put their candidate (whoever that proves to be for the GOP) in the best possible light in the eyes of those independent or undecided voters (you know, all twelve of us). Not that there won't be plenty of other arrows in their proverbial quivers, but this event (that was important enough to interrupt prime time TV), which on the surface would seem to be another opportunity to unite at least most Americans by framing this as a common victory (defined as one would)—which, to be fair, is how the President, the Secretary of State, the Speaker of the House, and all wise politicians said in their first speeches—is still, at its core, merely another opportunity for our respective ideologies to battle it out. And we came off that ostensible high and back down to the trenches within a day or so.

Such is the contemporary world. But let's see if we can agree on one thing: We all have the kneejerk reaction to this overly politicized situation and its divisive nature as less than admirable, have the sense that it would be swell for an atmosphere of unity and cooperation to be more pervasive, but we have no idea what to do about it.

If we really did want unity, I suppose we could start by thinking differently about the way we think... differently.

Ah, but do we really want that? I mean, let's think about how dull that would be. And dwelling on this is the only thing keeping those in 24-hour news business from causing real trouble.

Perhaps the world is exactly as we need it to be.


  1. I think covert actions like liquidating terrorists and their families should be kept covert. Yes, it denies the public a chance to vent their frustration and relief. But it also denies people the opportunity to Monday-morning-quarterback the operation. Let it sit for a few years, and then leak the news via a rumor. By the time all the details are known, the event is so old it doesn't matter anymore.

  2. I don't agree, Marvin. I think there has to be some transparency with our government or we'll up end like the Soviet Union, being told what the truth is despite our "lying" eyes.

    In the past our government has played 1984 mind-games, throwing out half-truths and just outright lies, just to look good while satisfying its own interests (which aren't necessarily those of its citizens). Gulf of Tonkin. Vietnam War. The Grenada Invasion. The Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman.

    "Let it sit for a few years, and then leak the news via a rumor. By the time all the details are known, the event is so old it doesn't matter anymore."

    Yes, the United States of Amnesia strategy.

    Ever notice any parallels between the Roman and American empires?


So, what do you think?