See the waving flags, the dancing, fists pumping, hands raised in triumph and joy. Hear the chants. They are inflating beach balls, climbing trees, pointing their cameras at each other’s jubilation. I have seen many such crowds, but this is the first I’ve seen materialize at the announcement of someone’s death. Some call it pride, happiness, or justice. It is nationalism’s trembling body.
It has become monstrous to wish for forms of justice that lack the simple elegance of death as the answer to death. We must see the wisdom of such a position, we must celebrate its apotheosis in the American streets. Who could argue with such moral clarity, such symmetry? He has killed thousands, wrought devastation and despair. Surely you would be a monster to find fault with that elegance, and you would be cruel and foolish to find the dancing bodies appalling.
I had not appreciated just how badly some of us seemed to need this brief release. For many there are a thousand other terrors in our time, terrors that will know no corresponding closure. America revels in this particular death because it cannot face whatever else might be dying.
Watch the crowd at just the moment when it begins to expend its energies, when it flails about seeking a further purpose. You will see individual men and women with something like joy or happiness or relief still on their faces. Those faces (even now, in the wee hours in the wake of the announcement) are already tinged with a quiet confusion. The faces in the crowd already begin to look around to see what others in the crowd are doing. They begin to wonder just where their hearts and bodies should be. They are looking for the cues that a crowd’s simple comforts provide. Bin Laden is dead, but there is still tomorrow to face; and justice, against the well-worn saying, is never done.