Monday, May 2, 2011

osama and the audacity of a joke

bin laden is dead, long live osama!

people used to say, do you remember where you were when you heard john kennedy had been assassinated? i was walking home from school. i was in first grade, and the big 2nd graders, who had a radio in their class, told us the president had been shot dead. i didn't believe it; i had to go home and ask my parents what it meant.

the events of that weekend, so many years ago, are a confusing blur. my canary died then, since we'd neglected to feed and water him, and i remember how i cried. it was far more real to me than this dead president -- death and presidency being concepts far less material than my canary.

for the death of osama bin laden, i feel a similar sense of disbelief and need for elucidation.

did we really, really kill this man, who symbolized the dark, malevolent forces of the world, arrayed against us here on the shining city on a hill? and if our navy seals really planted one right between his eyes, what, can anyone explain, does it really mean?

america needs its bogeymen -- now, more than ever! osama bin laden served that role so effectively. besides robert fisk, no one with a shred of credibility i ever heard speak could actually attribute human characteristics to this enigmatic, cave-dwelling nemesis. fisk cut the man no slack, which led me to believe that the real osama was no great humanitarian.

on the other hand, he was a man with a vision, a man on a mission, someone who out of the billions of people who'd borne the brunt of american benevolence who actually took a stand against the deadly hypocrisy of the really evil empire.

here was a man who could be credibly called evil, but amongst peers in the imperial oligarchy that runs corporate america, bin laden was merely playing a dirty game with other remorseless mass killers -- guys with names like bush and blair, who are more likely to be feted than brought to justice in our twisted, rampaging, consumerist culture.

osama got no justice in this world, and what fate awaits him in another is beyond the scope of this discussion. the verdict of history, however, may very well judge him more compassionately than the lightning-strike intruders who likely felled a guy who was still in his pajamas.

the winners write history, of course, but our notion of winners -- and of winning -- has more to do with charlie sheen than thucydides, and is likely to have about the same relevance for anyone looking back without being beneficiaries of the prejudices at our times.

in short, the west's story is one of exploitation and oppression of the developing world in order to steal the resources required to fuel our always-on, consumption-crazed lifestyles, which pours the wealth of nations into the insatiable maw of corporations and the malevolent beings who control them -- and through them, the rest of us.

this regime controls incredible wealth, as well as a military machine unmatched in all of history. it has the motive and the means to dominate and ravish the entire planet -- or so the masters of this most inhumane system imagine.

if for no other reason than to disabuse them of this notion, one has to recognize the audacity of osama bin laden. he poked his former benefactors in the eye, as a fare-thee-well for his heedless and disrespectful erstwhile masters.

to bring down the soviets, the US would arm its enemies, including bin laden, and soon enough showed its equal disdain for friend and foe, when naked self-interest dictated it. recognizing the west's ideals are limited to expediency, osama unleashed the same treachery on the cynical manipulators who'd only recently been his ally.

ronald reagan's freedom fighters returned to fight another day, but this time it was the son-of-a-bush who would receive the taunt and the provocation that to this day consumes the innards of the vile empire like a lethal disease -- and will someday utterly destroy it, a victim of its own hubris and greed.

bin laden is always pictured with his AK-47 nearby. he was a fighter -- unlike the bush and cheney chicken-hawks, who found it sufficient to send others in their thousands and hundreds of thousands to their deaths. when bush took the bait of the 9/11 attack with relish and a flair for the dramatic, bin laden made for the thick of battle -- and perhaps bush can best explain why the US chose not to terminate bin laden at that time, when he was cornered at tora bora.

perhaps bush and cheney had bigger fish to fry: saddam hussein and the oil fields of iraq -- which had already been divvied up by cheney's energy task force. for whatever reason, aside for the occasional tape-recorded taunt, bin laden seemed to fade into an inexplicable obscurity. still, the visage of the bearded one, with his AK nearby, seems to be positioned for immediate access with circumstances called for something dramatic.

on the night on obama's announcement of the death of bin laden, there appeared to be a spontaneous outbreak of exultation from a generation of young americans who have grown up in the terrifying shadow of osama bin laden -- the young came out in revelry, and many a commentator compared the outpouring of emotion as more akin to a football championship that the death of a despised enemy of the state.

and yet, who could expect these youngsters to behave any differently, having been brought up in a media culture that only thinly divides reality from spectacle, and where there's almost no separation between manufactured and real emotion. the chants of USA, USA that seemed ubiquitous in this frenzied celebration of mayhem and murder, were a reminder that the reality of these party animals is completely wound around the false narrative of a bought-and-paid-for media establishment.

no one thought or bothered to question, they merely ripped their shirts off and drank liquor straight from the bottle. the exultation continued the next day, with people glued to FOX for a fix of the straight patriotic dope from your friendly corporate sponsors of conspicuous, ruinous consumption. there, 15 minutes of narrative was spun continuously, hour after hour, by crazed senseless celebrants of the very decadent lifestyle that fueled bin laden's contempt for USA, USA!

still, in 500 years -- if we survive the madness that characterizes the age -- what will the people of that time make of 9/11? will they see the victims of imperialism striking back against the most potent symbols of the global corporate oppressor, bringing down the twin towers in new york city? or will they excuse the rapacity of the US and its partners in trying to establish unquestioned dominance over the energy resources of the planet, with the aim of maximizing profits for multinational corporations and enriching a small circle of insatiable capitalists? will they, like us, consider bin laden a savage enemy and a terrorist?

this seems too simple to me: the arc of history bends toward justice, after all. nor does it really make it any less true, that in his audacity the words were spoken by a hypocritical tool of the oppressing elites.

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