Tales from KZ

Kazakhstan. Perry. A New Community.

Cheering for Joy and Reflecting on Justice

“I recall God silencing the singing angels when the Egyptians were drowning. Justice is one thing joy another?” – @RabbiWill [Berkowitz]

I was thinking about this extensively as I went to the White House during President Obama’s announcement last night. The unmitigated joy of the crowd – many of whom were unable to clearly articulate the ramifications (or lack of ramifications) of Osama’s killing – struck me as somewhat profane, but simply very strange.

The cheering of “U.S.A.! U.S.A!” spread through the crowd, with people basically dancing in front of the White House (although the drums did not arrive until around 1:30 AM). People climbed the light poles, throwing American flags up high, climbed to the top of trees, and generally were enveloped in the festivities.

But, what was being cheered? For many, for the collective “us” of America, Osama’s death is cathartic, I think it is partially substantiating the idea that we have control over our own life and our own destiny; no longer will one many scare us and dictate to us where our fear should be based.

Many countries burn effigies to protest or to celebrate – we raised the American flag. Over and over again the crowd erupted in renditions of the “Star Spangled Banner”, “Proud to Be an American”, and chants of “America. Fuck Yea.” This American pride is contagious and is healthy – to an extent – and I think it’s pretty inclusive, there was an Algerian flag waving in the sea of red, white, and blue – representing the new-found freedom in that country.

Yet, what message is being portrayed to the rest of the world – and what will we look back at yesterday as symbolizing? At least between 11 and 2, the crowd in DC was largely young – college students and young professionals. The mood was festive and no one had a desire to discuss what Osama’s death means for the on-going wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and even Libya.

I thought President Obama’s statement balanced the feeling of “mission success” with a need to look forward to what comes next and a recognition that this was justice – and justice should be the focus. Just outside of where he gave his speech, however, the crowd’s joyousness was explained by a few young men and women on Al-Jazeera interview as “We got him” and “It’s over”. Neither very insightful statements – and these expressions (especially when coupled with a can of beer and shirts being taken-off) speak to the need for feeling in control.

I’m very glad I went to the White House yesterday – being part of that crowd was being part of history. Yet, the response disturbed me. I don’t know what would have been better. A vigil would not have been appropriate; a silent rally, in memory of Americans and people from all over the world who have died – may have been better; but, people wanted to express a lot of pent-up emotions – they needed to find a way to express frustration with 10 years of war and I imagine part of it was the feeling of an end of an era – no longer will this bogeyman hang over our head, releasing taped statements anticipating the downfall of our way of life.

Hopefully, moving forward we have last night as a point of collective euphoria and reflection, realizing how to continue to live in a global society, respectfully.


May 2, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment