Monday, May 2, 2011

The Head Of The Dragon

After all the back-slapping, breast-beating, drinking and dancing on Osama's watery grave, comes the sobering slap in the face that, dead or alive, nothing much has changed except Al Quaeda needs a new poster boy and the president gets a needed bump in the polls.

For ten years we have been shadow boxing. At a great cost of lives, resources and a bending of the American psyche we have sought Osama bin Laden's head on a platter as if that were the single embodiment of all villany. Now that we've decapitated the dragon is the matter settled? Have their perceived grievances been addressed? Is it justice that has been served or retribution? Does death ever bring closure? It does to those who think in punitive terms in that interminable cycle exchanging eyes for teeth.

In psychological parlance shadow is one's disowned self. There is much in our culture and our geo-politics that is seen as threatening by the Muslim world. To some extent, that view is shared by American fundamentalists. Both rant about a secular, godless society, about vulgar language, images and about those fissures in society which foreshadow rapid changes in mores and family structures. Shake hands with the American religious right. While the changes that modernity has brought cannot be reversed we must let them evolve according to the traditions and mores of each country however repugnant their social order may be to us.

Certainly the tribal authority and upheaval of woman's role is at stake. Our collective glee over bin Laden's demise feels fairly tribal, to me, also harkening back a few thousand years.

I understand the national grief of 9/11 and the state of siege we have lived with since then, to one degree or another. However isn't this hunt and slaying of the designated evildoer more symbolic and illusory than real? I'm inclined to reserve my celebration for the day we bring our legions home. A strong case can be made that American troops on foreign soil engender the very terrorism that we seek to eliminate. Is it really a good day for America or an occasion to reflect on our goals and the price we have paid subordinating means to ends.

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