It's complicated

May 3, 2011

Some idjit Twitted:

The fact that you cannot grapple with complexity of feelings and ethics does not make you intelligent or superior…it makes you a teenager

and followed it up with

Adolescents are sure that they are right. And they are. It is just that the world is wrong. Soooo wrong.

This came during interesting times. America’s EnemyNumberOne Osama bin Laden had been killed in a nighttime raid straight out of one of those rah-rah paperbacks you read on the plane. Or maybe out of ’24’. The TeeVee show. Lord love us but the name “Jack Bauer” was trending on twitter. An unseemly celebration sprang up outside the White House as the news emerged that bin Laden had been killed.

Many on the Twitts and blogs that I read were dismayed. Dismayed that we should be celebrating the assassination of one man. No matter what he had done to us as a nation. Dismayed that anyone should be joking or making light of the situation. A man has died…and at the hands of us all. That is what a war means. We are complicit in the decisions of our government. Even if we oppose them. And we have to live with that. And, I think, own it.

It is immature to insist that it has nothing to do with you because you are agin’ it. Doesn’t work that way. You are a part of this world, you are a part of this country, my US readers. We all benefit, if there are any benefits to emerge, and we are all put at risk from fall out. That is what a civil society is…kind of like wedding vows “for better or for worse”, is it not?

And it is not being “unintelligent” to joke or grapple with complexity in a situation like this. Out here in the real world, life IS complex. It is “unintelligent” to pretend it is anything else.

I have been most comfortable listening to this (NSFW):

I never watched the movie so this is new to me. It is pitch perfect in a situation like this.

Perhaps even more than the wiseass creators of it even knew at the time….or will ever know. Or maybe than they ever intended. The truly dense may hear nothing more than Toby Keith’s asinine hit.

But it is brilliant.

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No Responses Yet to “It's complicated”

  1. Dr. O Says:

    Just for the record – I never said I wasn’t celebrating the SOB’s death; merely that I was conflicted about what and why I was celebrating. OBL is the cause for a lot of stress and pain in our family, and I have no problem with his death or the attack or any of it. I just feel a weightiness about the whole situation that made dancing in the streets feel inappropriate – to me personally.

    I think Dr. Becca put it best when she commented that this *victory* was a symbol of hope for the future. And I totally plan on making her drink…just as soon as I get my act together for a trip to the liquor store.

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  2. I celebrated the hell out of this. As I watched my son, born in 2011, that evening while we waited for the president’s speech, I though about all the events that bin Laden’s behavior and words had triggered throughout my child’s entire lifetime, how bin Laden’s psychological warfare was so much more effective than his physical warfare, and how that psychological moment when the president made his speech Sunday night was so profound for our nation. I didn’t celebrate bin Laden’s physical death–we’re all going to die; it’s not much cause for partying–I celebrated for this country because of the emotional and psychological effect this news was having, clearly manifested even as it was unfolding.

    For me, personally, that news was a catharsis even as it brought flashbacks of that horrific day when that man made himself known to every one of us, and the news was delivered to me in a way that made it all the more meaningful. Every individual processed it differently, depending on circumstances, memory, emotion, experience, age, and a thousand other factors. My own factors added up to a feeling of jubilation, not for a death but for the effect of that death. That was how I felt in the moment. I still feel that way.

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  3. Sorry…that son? He was born in 2001. His entire life has been under that shadow.

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  4. We are complicit in the decisions of our government. Even if we oppose them. And we have to live with that. And, I think, own it.

    Yup. It was my hope, back in 2001, that we’d see this in terms of greater citizen engagement with the task of choosing our elected officials, engaging with our shared challenges, speaking up as policy was shaped, and so forth.

    But honestly, I don’t think it’s worked out that way. And I think, if we’re serious about being grown-ups here, we’re going to have to work through a whole lot of sorrow and rage and even jubilation and suit up for the hard work of figuring out how to share a world with everyone else.

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  5. OBL is the cause for a lot of stress and pain in our family, and I have no problem with his death or the attack or any of it.

    Personalizing geopolitical forces like islamic terrorism is infantile and counterproductive. In fact, it is exactly this kind of infantilism at the societal level that has led us into such completely hopeless pursuits as “killing them there so they can’t kill us here”. There are broad powerful geopolitical *causes* for islamic terrorism, and Bin Laden was more an effect than a cause. If it weren’t Bin Laden at the head of Al Qaeda, it would have been someone else.

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  6. proflikesubstance Says:

    I’m not opposed to going after Bin Laden, nor really the manner in which it was done, merely the apparent jubilation of so many that it was. And more so, that so little seems to have been learned in the decade we have been engaged in this battle.

    There are broad powerful geopolitical *causes* for islamic terrorism, and Bin Laden was more an effect than a cause. If it weren’t Bin Laden at the head of Al Qaeda, it would have been someone else.

    If even 20% of our population got this point – and by implication, that killing Bin Laden means nothing – I think we would be a very different nation. The fact that so much significance has been placed on this event demonstrates that we have a long way to go in understanding our global impact and why we are targeted.

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  7. Do “geopolitical” forces somehow exist without people driving them? Are you discounting the influence of personality in the course of history? The geo- undoubtedly exists without us, but there is no political without people. Were someone else at the head of Al Qaeda–and someone else effectively is at the head of its various Hydra heads (gee, who are those charismatic fellows?)–it would not have been some sort of simple body exchange for bin Laden. For whatever reason, he had that intangible appeal that drove his message. He’s not the first with that message, but he rallied people around that message.

    This argument strikes me as analogous to saying that Hitler was an effect of geopolitical forces active before WWII and that anyone could have been Hitler if Hitler hadn’t stepped in to be…Hitler. To further the analogy, to equate Hitler and Nazism would, based on the thread of this argument, be to personalize a geopolitical force irrationally and to commit an infantile act. There are always powerful causes for the effects we see, but the causes and the effects are human driven and human led…and to discount the role of personality and psychology, or even the role of using the shorthand of personality to encompass geopolitics, in any of this is to discount the human factor.

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  8. This argument strikes me as analogous to saying that Hitler was an effect of geopolitical forces active before WWII and that anyone could have been Hitler if Hitler hadn’t stepped in to be…Hitler. To further the analogy, to equate Hitler and Nazism would, based on the thread of this argument, be to personalize a geopolitical force irrationally and to commit an infantile act.

    This analogy is exactly correct. To think that if some dude named Adolf Hitler never lived that there wouldn’t have been Nazism in the early 20th Century is absurd.

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  9. In other news, I have never seen an infant try to personalize geopolitical forces. They’re likely among the few people in existence who would not have a tendency to do that.

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  10. So, you do discount the relevance of personality to the course of history. Hitler’s influence, his speeches, his oratorical skills, his friendship with Leni Riefenstahl…his self hatred…all of that is irrelevant to the pervasive influence and growth of the NSDAP?

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  11. I guess Mein Kampf probably didn’t matter, either. If Hitler hadn’t written that manifesto, I suppose someone else would have. And I guess any old fellow could have snowed Chamberlain like that. Well, maybe that latter is true. But then, I guess any old fellow could have been Chamberlain…or Churchill…or…well, and so on.

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  12. You can joke around all you want, but this kind of gross misunderstanding of geopolitical cause and effect is exploited all day every day by the imperial ruling class to get dumshittes like you to follow along with their imperial schemes and solidify their control over the American empire. All those delusional college imbeciles cheering and screaming USA! USA! USA! are motherfucken MONEY for the ruling class.

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  13. It’s always a sign that someone can no longer marshal facts to their side when they decide to launch personal attacks instead, so I’ll consider that I’ve taken the day with this one. Thanks.

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  14. HAHAHAHAHAH! Yeah, you’ve “taken the day”! Enjoy your prize!

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  15. CoR Says:

    Thanks for the earworm. Amerika, fuk ya.

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  16. Dr. O Says:

    Way to take my statement out of context. I didn’t say my personal experience represented a reason to be jubilant over OBL’s death. I’m glad he’s dead, but I realize that this comes from a desire for revenge – not justice. I recognize this shortcoming from myself, and I think we would be better served as a nation (hell, as a world) if more people understood what forces were driving our celebrations.

    On the other hand, the capture/killing of OBL represents a long-sought after victory for our government. I’m proud of them being able to get done what was considered by many (including myself) to be impossible. Yes, it will likely have no measurable effect on the war on terror. Others will take his place. People still hate America. And terrorism won’t end now (or ever, if you ask me). But our government set a goal and achieved it. IMO, this could restore some faith in our government, which isn’t the worst thing in the world – and maybe even worthy of some small celebration.

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  17. Way to take my statement out of context. I didn’t say my personal experience represented a reason to be jubilant over OBL’s death.

    Way to completely fail to understand what I wrote.

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  18. becca Says:

    First, I’m glad you shared your emotional responses. I can empathize with where you are coming from in some respects. I certainly share your hope that the effect of his death will be something to rejoice over. I’m not sure how we get there from here though.

    Which horrific day was it that the man made himself known to every one of us? August 7th, 1998 (the Embassy bombings)? Or September 16th 2001, when his video came out in which he denied responsibility for the twin towers et al?

    I remember the day, and I remember the news coverage. I remember the fact that (all but one of) the terrorists were from Saudi Arabia. And that the links to Osama bin Laden were not immediately obvious. I known the difference between Saudi Arabia and Iraq. And Afganistan. Which is, itself, not Pakistan (which is what I’m most concerned about right now, to be honest).

    It’s probably easier to lump together ‘all those people who hate us’ and make one a figurehead (scapegoat? martyr?) then to understand how this fuzzy notion of ‘the other’ is designed to block empathy and is itself instrumental in the psychological warfare you speak of.

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  19. becca Says:

    The Holocaust and WWII in general would not have happened exactly the way they did without Hitler. However, to assume that personality is defining is to ignore the most terrifying, essential, and true lesson of the Holocaust- it could have been us. It’s critical to recognize that it is well within the span of human nature (and that means my human nature, and your human nature, and your son’s human nature) to view other people as animals or things, and to kill them by the thousands. That’s not Hitler, that’s every day soldiers. It’s critical to recognize that when people are suffering, they look for someone to blame. Whether it’s German citizens blaming Jews, or USians blaming Osama bin Laden.
    To pretend that any human being, no matter how evil, can cause that much evil, on that scale, is A) laughable and B) tragic. It also completely ignores WWI. Which wasn’t exactly a picnic.

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  20. I never said that Hitler was defining. Someone else attributed that to me.

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  21. My point was that his personality, behavior, writing, his *self* was strongly relevant to the course that his party followed and can’t be disentangled from it.

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  22. Sorry I have been compelled to do THREE replies for this. But I also wanted to point out that what you say is my argument exactly. We can’t exclude human nature from this equation or the psychological/emotional/whatever influence of events like this on *people*. We are, collectively, determinants of history as much as any one personality, and our collective responses, emotions, psychological sighs of relief, etc., are relevant, regardless of bloodless discussions of “geopolitics.”

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  23. Neuro-conservative Says:

    As a great man once said, “There you go again.”

    On your own blog, you failed to defend your assertion that US foreign policy gave bin Laden sufficient reason to attack.

    Care to give it a shot here?

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  24. My personal psychology is not simplistic, so I won’t delve into it in depth here. I don’t lump people; that’s something for a different mindset from mine. But I’m not going to deny the relevance of psychological warfare…on either side.

    The horrific day was September 11, 2001, obviously. I of course recall subsequent events, but I also clearly remember becoming more acutely aware of this person than ever before–and I was aware of him before–and I imagine others who watch/read less news than I might have found that their first encounter. My memories of that day involved many things, from the moment of hearing about the planes to watching the towers fall to experiencing the eerie silence of cancelled classes where I taught at the time at a university that normally swarmed with 50,000 students.

    I’m familiar with the geography of the Middle East. Even as a hick from Waco, Texas, I’ve got a grasp of that.

    I don’t recall expressing a hope that his death would be something to rejoice over, and in reviewing my comment, I don’t see that I expressed that. I expressed that everyone will have their personal response to this event and that psychologically, as a nation, the U.S. will have a response that likely will coalesce into something positive relative to other responses related to bin Laden.

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  25. If Hitler hadn’t written that manifesto, I suppose someone else would have.

    Yes. That kind of thinking was common back then – anti-semitism, racism, eugenics, purity of bloodlines – one drop rule, anyone? Hitler was not uniquely evil, just in the right place at the right time. (Or the wrong place at the wrong time, I suppose.)

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  26. Neuro-conservative Says:

    In an effort to appear oh-so-sophisticated, CPP has fallen into a tediously one-sided and outdated Marxian approach to history.

    In this particular instance, bin Laden is a very powerful symbol of the jihadist philosophy incarnate; his death will have substantial ripple effects worldwide.

    As someone –who was it again? — once said, “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse.”

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  27. becca Says:

    You said you felt ‘jubilation’ for the *effect* of his death. To my mind, that is similar to rejoicing over the *effect* of his death.

    Since I think the full ‘effects’ of his death remain to be seen, I don’t see how I could concur, but I can at least hope that I will concur.

    In other words, I am trying to understand where you are coming from. Additionally, I see potential for both good and bad things to come out of this.

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  28. DrugMonkey Says:

    suggesting that bagging bin Laden is meaningless is just as ignorant of geopolitics as is believing this solves everything. It’s complicated. And alternative history is a game for fantasy writers- we cannot know for sure.

    With regard to all y’all’s attempts to Godwin, this is not what-if-Hitler-never-was. It is more profitable to argue over whether killing him would have had impact in 32, 36, 39, 42 etc.

    CoR- yes. I recommend playing it over and over. Like fine wine, additional depth and complexity reveal themselves with each tasting. (I fear CPP must have missed the baseball and sushi references.)

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  29. DrugMonkey Says:

    Revenge versus justice is an interesting topic. To me, at the civil level the State takes control of these matters because the rule of law is the only way to keep revenge from perverting justice. Yet, at least in the US, the State manages to let one big whopping load of revenge (victim testimony anyone?) into the system. The international “rule of law” system is less powerful when the aggrieved are military powers but it shares the same weaknesses- revenge creeps in… And even if adjudication and punishment IS uninfluenced by the revenge driver, it cannot possibly prevent the aggrieved from feeling as if they have obtained it.

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  30. HAHAHAHAH!!!! I was wondering where you were, dumfucke!

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  31. HAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!! Yes, you have been “compelled” by inexorable forces to continue blithering on this blogge!

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  32. On your own blog, you failed to defend your assertion that US foreign policy gave bin Laden sufficient reason to attack.

    You right-wingers are such transparent liars, the way that you use the word “reason” to purposefully conflate “justification” with “cause”. Nice try, America-hating scum. We’re not as fucken stupid here as your typical Fox-addled racist pig.

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  33. Dr. O Says:

    And even if adjudication and punishment IS uninfluenced by the revenge driver, it cannot possibly prevent the aggrieved from feeling as if they have obtained it.

    This is what I’m grappling with (and, I guess, failing to express) right now. I don’t have a problem with us killing OBL (although I do wish we had captured him instead, but that would likely make things even more complicated). I don’t have a problem with people feeling happy/relieved/sad/apathetic/whatever personal reaction they have to his death. But I worry what it says about us (individually or collectively as a nation) if we can’t get passed our initial reactions and have a conversation about what needs to happen next.

    I agree with CPP (yes, I did understand what you wrote) and PLS – we have serious issues that we have yet to confront in this country, especially regarding our foreign policies, and especially as they pertain to the Middle East. But I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect people to not feel something, no matter how right or wrong, in response to OBL’s death. We’re all human, it’s impossible to not react to something like this, and everybody’s reaction will be different.

    But, yes, we do need to find a way to get past our initial reactions and deal with the “geopolitical forces” that got us into this mess to begin with.

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  34. I have never suggested that people shouldn’t feel whatever it is that they feel. What I have suggested is that it is foolish to think that this is about Bin Laden as an individual and that his death is going to ameliorate the causes of islamic terrorism.

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  35. Dr. O Says:

    With that, I can certainly agree.

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  36. becca Says:

    Additional depth and complexity?
    SLAVERY!
    FUCK YEAH!!!

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  37. Mordecai Says:

    “If even 20% of our population got this point – and by implication, that killing Bin Laden means nothing – I think we would be a very different nation.”

    I don’t think this is implied. If we ourselves see this as a symbolic victory — indeed, can’t help but see it as a symbolic victory — how do you think it’ll be seen in the rest of the world?

    I remember reading that if you asked children somewhere in Brazil who their heroes were, their answers (after a famous soccer player) in 2008 were Obama and Bin Laden — they’re looking for men who visibly changed the world. In 2010, Bin Laden was still near the top, and Obama was dead last, since he hadn’t delivered on (in their view) an implicit promise to immediately transform US foreign policy. What do you think they would say now?

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  38. FrauTech Says:

    Thanks DM. I didn’t feel like celebrating afterwards, but I felt…I don’t know, slight relief? I think all the interviews with soldiers and their wives shows that indeed some portion of the population understands the context of this very well. They all very well know that “terrorism” is not a single machine that can be destroyed instantly in a day, that killing OBL is not going to slow our enemy, and that if anything possible retaliation or pro-martyr effects of this death will be more immediately influential to them personally in their responsibilities as soldiers stationed overseas.

    Personally I think criticism of the “celebrations” is overdone. If people want to celebrate, they should celebrate. If anything else OBL was a terrorist and mass murderer. When we finally catch serial killers we celebrate that they are no longer out there killing. We do not need to focus overmuch on how if our police force wasn’t so fascist maybe there would be fewer serial killers, or that prosecutors and the overreach of criminal law is more to blame than the serial killer for the deaths. We recognize that catching a serial killer is not the same thing as catching ALL serial killers. That doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate that one truly “bad” person is no longer out there.

    I found the media coverage of whether burial at sea was “appropriate” for a proper muslim burial pretty wild. The fact that the soldiers involved bothered at all to try to accomodate his religious hokey-pokey is pretty impressive to me, the fact that we would care about a mass murderer’s particularly twisted belief in a sky wizard who grants wishes (and in this case encourages war and murder) is pretty crazy to me. I say this with the same feeling for the christian americans who have committed horrible atrocities and yet wish to be respected in their religious beliefs after their death. I don’t think we “owe” murderers anything.

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  39. drugmonkey Says:

    FrauTech- of course we are not trying to respect some modicum of religious burial tradition for *Osama bin Laden*, we are doing it out of respect for other Muslims, in the US and elsewhere. I’m no fan of death ritual but ignoring it just seems kind of overtly insulting.

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  40. becca Says:

    I suspect what’s going on is that we want to have a teeny tiny bit of slightly raised ground to say to Afganistan- look, we are better than the Taliban.

    (It would appear that at the massacre of Mazar-i Sharif they refused to let people bury the dead ‘until the dogs ate them’ http://www.hrw.org/legacy/reports/reports98/afghan/Afrepor0-02.htm#P114_24041)

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