So in response to some emailers and commenters, who feel that I have not spent enough time talking about how horrible a person Osama bin Laden was, allow me to say: for me, "mass murderer" is enough. That's enough to condemn him, for me. Is there a deeper insult? A more thorough moral disqualification? Perhaps "one who has committed genocide." In any event, acknowledging his horrific crimes on September 11th, and others, is more than enough.
I would ask what, exactly, might come from me joining the rest in showily beating my chest and heaping derision upon a corpse that was guilty of the most unforgivable crime we have. What would that accomplish? Is the idea that I need to prove to you that I condemn Osama, his organization, his actions, and everything that he stood for? I'm sorry, but proving what's in our minds remains beyond the powers of mortal men. Oh, but they try.... I'll tell you: all of the desperate signaling of so many these last few days, people working so incredibly hard to show that at this event they accept all of our antique, dust-covered national narratives-- the same that many of them showily reject when not doing so threatens their social positioning-- well, I can barely express how naked the crude postmodernism was, the kind where the need to show that you're feeling something completely obscures whether you're actually feeling it. But I can't blame them; that's the tragedy of our times: never to experience, always to show that you're experiencing. What's that line? "Welcome to the desert of the real"?
Well, what you feel is your business and what I feel is mine, and now he is dead and the question is only what kind of a country we want to rebuild in the wake of his death. For now I can only observe: we live in the kind of country where so many say "hey, just this once, don't question the government, don't ask questions, just go along." We live in the kind of country where someone as powerful as John Kerry commands us to shut up and move on for the good of the motherland. We live in the kind of country where countless random Twitter users attack Glenn Greenwald for keeping his convictions about civil liberties and the rule of law (for being principled), as loudly as they celebrated him when the president he criticized was on the other team. You can like these realities or you can dislike them or you can be indifferent towards them, and you can work as your conscience dictates.
But sell your fucking purity tests somewhere else. You cheered bin Laden's death in between twiddling with your Dominoes app and remembering to Tivo America's Next Great Fry Cook. I have no interest in public celebration, yours, mine, or anyone else's.