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The Polarizing Effect of Bin Laden's Death

Updated on May 26, 2011

Osama Bin Laden, up until his death at the beginning of this month, was the leader of Al Qaida and Public Enemy Number One. Now, almost ten years after the September 11th attacks orchestrated by this man, his reign was brought to an end by an elite team of Navy SEALs. However, not everyone in the U.S. was rejoicing over the death of this evil man, and not just those who think it's morally wrong to hate your enemies and delight in their misfortunes. Had Bin Laden been killed in 2002, would we still be this divided a nation?

Perhaps the war on terror has jaded us as a nation to the point where many of us no longer care if he's gone. After all, Al Qaida still exists and is in the process of choosing a new leader. Also, there's the fact that our government had received tips about the 9/11 attacks and did nothing to prevent them from happening, plus the fact that it took so long to hunt down and kill Bin Laden for various reasons. This is not necessarily a statement that people don't trust government or have lost confidence in its direction or level of competence, but there are skeptics. Skepticism is probably at an all-time high these days, as some people don't actually believe Bin Laden is dead due to President Obama's refusal to release the graphic images of his body and the identities of Seal Team VI being kept secret. Under President Bush, the people got to watch Saddam Hussein's public execution on television. Far be it from me to say whose decisions were right or whose were wrong, but the American public seems to have become more divided in what it wants from the president and in accepting the outcome of his actions. People want proof, but even when they get it they aren't convinced anymore; they believe whatever they want to believe.

I would like to relate an incident that, while smaller in scale and scope, reflects some of this division in public opinion. Years ago when former Connecticut Governor John Rowland announced he was resigning from office, nearly everyone in my high school was jumping for joy. People had gathered outside the Governors Mansion and were shouting obscenities at him. In short, he had made several unpopular decisions while in office, but it was the acceptance of what were considered gifts that had put people over the edge. I'm young enough that I didn't know about everything he'd done over the years that people didn't like, but I did know that this public outcry was taking an emotional toll on his family. For that reason, I could not get excited like everyone else. Also, in my mind, politicians were mostly all the same - people keep voting for them, and they continue to do whatever they want. Even if we vote in a new one, it wouldn't be long before he or she would make an unpopular decision (currently, I'm not too thrilled about the possible shut-down of our state library). It's the same everywhere, and there seems to be no escaping it.

Bin Laden's family had disavowed him, so it can't be for that reason that some people aren't happy at his comeuppance. Many take the political stance that the new leader will be just as dangerous and Al Qaida will take their revenge on us with their ten-year-anniversary attack. Ten years is a long time. There may be no statute of limitations for murder, but the schadenfreude of returning fire seems to have an expiration date that passed years ago in the minds of many.


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