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May 3, 2011 / Dan Whipple

Don’t make me come back there!

I’ve only been gone eight months and already you’ve forgotten how to behave.

When dead American soldiers were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu to cheering crowds, Americans were enraged, disgusted, appalled. Now Osama bin Laden is killed and gleeful Americans take to the streets waving flags and chanting, “U … S … A…” like it’s a football game.
Guess what the rest of the world thinks of that?

Even the end of World War II didn’t inspire this sort of thing. The proper response would be more understated—hoist a cold one, pump out a “Yeah, we got him,” then consider the future without a bogeyman. But all this jumping up and down is tacky. Maybe some of those brave patriots waving flags at Ground Zero can now find the gumption to allow trials of the Guantanamo detainees in their towns. But probably not. Too scary.

I’ll admit some self-interest here. The State Department has sent out notices telling us furriners to stay home, avoid crowds, be careful. In Kenya, the terrorist threat is more than hypothetical. Al Shabaab, a Somali fringe group, periodically threatens to set off explosives in Kenya in retaliation for one perceived affront or another. Their latest threat was two weeks ago. One of bin Laden’s first successes—if that’s the word we want—was the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy here in Nairobi, killing 212 people, wounding 4,000. Remembrance of this event doesn’t inspire the same teary patriotism as the World Trade Center attack because most of the victims were, well, Kenyans.

It would be nice for the rest of us out here in the real world if some good came out of this sordid and tasteless celebration of a single man’s death. Say … declare victory in the “war on terror.” End the Patriot Act. Restore the integrity of legal system. Close Guantanamo.

But probably not. Too scary.

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10 Comments

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  1. Thom / May 3 2011 3:40 pm

    Dan, while your concerns are reasonable, what you are saying smacks of “concern trolling” to me. And I think it’s fair to make a few distinctions that render your point invalid. First, Americans celebrating the death of bin Laden are not dragging anyone’s body through the street. And furthermore, they are cheering a foreseeable END to violence around the globe, not instigating for continued violence. And, as for your claims about the end of WWII – weren’t there ticker-tape parades and celebrations all around the country? Just view the wikipedia entry on VJ Day – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victory_over_Japan_Day

    Again, I understand your concern, and I hope you remain safe there in Kenya, but all this concern trolling is misguided and unfair. Americans celebrating this event are basking in a sense of closure, and a unifying moment for all Americans. No responsible person wants to agitate or create more violence.

    • Dan Whipple / May 3 2011 3:49 pm

      Thanks. I hope you’re right about celebrating an end to the violence. We’ll have to agree to disagree, since I don’t read it that way, and most of the people here don’t either. They see it as an instigation to further violence. Most of the Kenyans I’ve spoken with, however, are glad that we got him.

      I confess, though, that I don’t know what “concern trolling” is. It sounds awful, though, and I’d hate to be guilty of it.

      • Thom / May 3 2011 4:22 pm

        Concern trolling is a rhetorical tactic where you claim someone is in the wrong because of certain speculative negative consequences to their particular point of view. In this case, your concern that people will look upon our celebrations with disdain, and misrepresent those celebrations as calls for more violence around the world, against Muslims in particular, presumably, thus resulting in more terrorism.

        All of that may in fact play out that way; we have yet to see. This certainly won’t have been the first, or the last act by Americans to potentially result in more hatred for us abroad. (see Iraq, war in; Abu Ghraib, photos; etc…)

        I don’t mean to accuse you of deploying your concern disingenuously. I just think it’s a fine line. And I’ll take your word that the Kenyans your interact with may not like the celebrations. It would be gracious of you to suggest that we are celebrating a potential END to the violence, not a continuation of it. At least, that’s how I feel.

        Thanks for having a courteous dialog, even if we disagree.

        all the best,
        Thom

  2. Dan Whipple / May 3 2011 4:36 pm

    “Concern trolling” sounds suspiciously like the straw man fallacy. I’d argue that This is not That—but I can see where reasonable people could disagree.

  3. Dan Neal / May 3 2011 11:07 pm

    My daughter relayed this from a friend:

    “I will mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy.
    Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that”
    —Martin Luther King Jr

  4. Mike Weber / May 4 2011 1:25 am

    I noticed recently that my best friend always “defaults to sarcasm”. I think this can be a mistake, for example, when one is trying to actually communicate something you’d like the reader or listener to consider seriously.

    • Dan Whipple / May 4 2011 6:09 am

      Mike,
      I hope this is a little humorous and entertaining, but not sarcastic.

  5. chas / May 4 2011 3:17 pm

    “Don’t overestimate the decency of the human race.”
    H. L. Mencken, the other Baltimore Sage…

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