Reactions to bin Laden Death Abound; Interview With Chris Hedges on Americans’ “Triumphalism”
For a true eye-of-the-beholder experience, check out these two headlines today from the Chronicle and the Mercury News:
- For Sept. 11 victims’ families, quiet relief (Chronicle)
- Bay Area families of war dead, 9/11 victims unsettled by bin Laden’s death (Mercury News)
Relieved? Or unsettled? In journalism, as in in life, the story often depends on whom you talk to. In the aggregate, local media are doing their part to get to the many hearts of the matter: military families, East Bay students, Flight 93 relatives, San Francisco Muslims, Bay Area Muslims, ex-Navy Seals, Pakistani Americans, Bay Area veterans, congressional members, Marinites, Vallejo students, Fremont Afghans, morning commuters — you name it, they’ve been interviewed about their reaction to the death of American Enemy No. 1.
Taking the pulse of the wider culture, a fair amount of triumphalism has obtained. To view that in its purest form, watch this video of Philadelphians reacting to the announcement of bin Laden’s death at a Mets-Phillies game:Yesterday, journalist/author/contrarian Chris Hedges was on KQED Radio’s Forum discussing bin Laden’s death. Hedges, who was the Middle East Bureau Chief for The New York Times and has written extensively on terrorism and the war on terror, was speaking at a fundraising event for the web site TruthDig when he was informed of the news. (Here’s the full text of his expression of dubiousness about any speculated benefits of bin Laden’s death.)
NPR has a story up called Is It Wrong To Celebrate Bin Laden’s Death? Yesterday I asked that, in so many words, of Hedges:
Me: Do you think this kind of emotional reaction is not helpful, this kind of national catharsis and triumphalism?
Chris Hedges: Yeah, it’s sick.
Me: You think it’s sick.
Chris Hedges: Of course it is. I’m not in any way against the hunting down of bin Laden. But it’s a tragic event; the whole thing is tragic. I was in New York when the plane hit and I walked down the West Side Highway in time to flee with everyone else, when Building 7 collapsed. And I was on the site with the small tiny pieces of flesh that we were finding — a foot in a shoe, this kind of stuff. The attacks are not in any way an abstraction to me. The full horror of it wsa thrust in my face…
I support the effort, the intelligence effort to break Al Qaeda. I think that the intelligence operatives probably had no choice in that he certainly resisted capture with violence; at least that’s what he said he’d always do. But I don’t rejoice in it. And I think I also don’t rejoice in it, because as a war correspondent, I’ve been in so many firefights, that I know how venal, dirty, and ugly that kind of activity is.
An opposing view to this is expressed in this popular Facebook status, as reported in the previously mentioned NPR article. The quote is attributed to
Mark Twain (It’s actually from Clarence Darrow, reader KiltBear points out):
“I’ve never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure.”