Really, Saddam Hussein was the bogeyman of my childhood. By the time September 11 happened, I was eighteen. And while there was a new bogeyman to fear, there was also a lot of blame being distributed to entities with funny names - the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, Afghanistan. And then Iraq and Saddam got pulled back in there again. It was all very confusing.
After Saddam was executed, I found and watched the cell phone video of his hanging. It's the sort of thing that you seek out and then afterwards wish you hadn't. The video quality was terrible, for which I am grateful. At the end, there he was, the bogeyman, swinging. He was just a man after all, and then he wasn't even that.
I logged on to my work computer this morning and read that Osama bin Laden was finally dead. I was stunned, because up until then, it had been a very regular kind of day. I had hit the snooze button too many times. I'd read the advice column in the paper while waiting for my tea to steep. And then it became a momentous day, even though the moment was actually yesterday. Then again, 9/11 had started out as a normal sort of day, too.
And then I read a bunch more - articles, blogs, reactions from politicians, obituaries that had been written years ago (Whoever wrote most of the copy of the New York Times obituary has since died; how depressing to be outlived by the subject of a pre-written obit). There's a whole spectrum of views out there. Many of them are jubilant and triumphant. Others pay lip service to the idea that you shouldn't celebrate the death of a human being, then go on to say that this particular guy deserved it. Still others compare bin Laden's body count to that of the two wars that were started in his name and the loss of individual liberty for the sake of national security.
In all that reading, I was hoping to find someone else who had figured out what I was feeling and put it into words, since I am apparently unable to. I'm not at all sorry that bin Laden is dead. Justice, as far as we humans understand it, has been served. Mostly I wonder why I don't feel more. First I was stunned, and then just...well, not really anything.
Here is one thing I feel: I'm happy for the President. Just last week, I listened while someone told me that Obama was weak. I should have responded that recognizing that there are other options besides force is not the same as weakness. I did not say that, because political discussions turn me into a tense mash of mush. I am glad that Obama will get credit for this assassination, and I hope that it helps him get re-elected. He seems to be the only adult left in the room a lot of the time.
But I'm not celebrating in the streets. The fact that such a person existed at all is too depressing to make his death a festive affair. The fact that he is finally gone seems to have given a lot of people some closure, and I'm glad for them, even though I can't help but think that nothing is really closed. One less bogeyman is a good, good thing, but there will always be more.