Or, in the case of Osama ben Laden, almost certainly better dead, one suspects.
What has puzzled me is the lack of critical discussion about this topic in the West, even on philosophy blogs, as far as I have been able to tell. Is it because the killing was so clearly right? Or is it that on balance it is a winner even for those inclined to criticize? Many have remarked that the death will not mean the end of terrorism, and perhaps for now that’s criticism enough. Or perhaps it’s the fear of vilification that people who criticized the government around 911 received. Susan Sontag’s comments are still thought by some to be a blot on her records. Still, her closing words now have a very sad irony:
Politics, the politics of a democracy–which entails disagreement, which promotes candor–has been replaced by psychotherapy. Let’s by all means grieve together. But let’s not be stupid together. A few shreds of historical awareness might help us to understand what has just happened, and what may continue to happen. “Our country is strong”, we are told again and again. I for one don’t find this entirely consoling. Who doubts that America is strong? But that’s not all America has to be.
Bill Maher got his ABC show cancelled because of remarks similar to Sontag’s. The government response to him, at least as Salon reported here, is itself quite scary:
Even the Bush White House (a frequent Maher target) stoked the outrage, with spokesman Ari Fleischer [said that the controversy around Maher was] a reminder “to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do. This is not a time for remarks like that; there never is.”
There have been some fiercely critical voices in fact. Kai Wright, editor of Colorlines, says:
Osama Bin Laden, evil incarnate, has justified so, so much American violence in the 21st century. We have launched two wars and executed God knows how many covert military operations in the ethereal, never-ending fight he personifies. We have made racial profiling of Muslim Americans normative, turned an already broken immigration system into an arm of national defense, and reversed decades worth of hard-won civil liberties while pursuing him, dead or alive. We have abandoned even the conceit of respect for human rights in places stretching from Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo Bay in the course of hunting him down. Now, finally, the devil is dead.
Upon the news of this victory, crowds gathered in front of the White House and at Ground Zero to chant “U.S.A.! U.S.A!” It was as if we’d just won an Olympic hockey game, rather than capped a decade worth of war and recession with a singular act of violence.
Among the few other unenthusiastic voices has been that of Tara Parker-Pope, self-described as “New York Times Well blogger, author, busy mom, lapsed runner and pack leader of four ill-behaved small dogs.” She tweets @taraparkerpope
Troubled by the response to the Bin Laden news. Shouldn’t this be a time of reflection, rather than celebration?
I agree with her. What do you think?