Sunday, May 1, 2011
Celebrating the death of Bin Laden
The President's speech was mesmerizing. I think he could have cut a couple of minutes, but he used the time to praise people associated with the operation. His finish, with the Pledge of Allegiance, reached to the right, but got me to stand at attention with hand to heart. A great moment in American history.
Symbolically, I had to open American bubbly. I had some older Schramsberg wines, and as soon as I realized I had the 2001 J. Schram North Coast Brut Sparkling Wine, I knew it was perfect. The grapes, which came from vineyards in at least four counties, must have been harvested within three weeks of Sept. 11, 2001. Mostly they would have been harvested just beforehand, in a better time. A time when the Battle for Seattle was our biggest conflict. A time when travel was less onerous, and when we didn't realize people wanted to kill us because of the kind of movies Hollywood makes or other aspects of our culture. Imagine, people who wanted to kill us because of Jerry Springer or topless women in gangsta rap videos. Or for our political support of Israel. Or whatever. People we didn't know, people we never personally did anything against, wanted to kill us.
This guy, Osama Bin Laden, wanted to kill me. Planned to kill my fellow Americans. Abandoned his family, spent his fortune, to kill us and damage our way of life. And the horrible thing is, he succeeded. We can eliminate him, but we can never make air travel convenient or pleasant again. We can never eliminate the growing bureaucracy of search, the intrusions to our privacy. Hopefully we can bring our troops home soon, but we can never make up for the loss of lives of our servicemen who fought in two wars that we entered -- one mistakenly -- in response to his action. Al Qaeda wanted to ruin our lives, or more accurately, our lifestyle. And they won. Which is why tonight's celebration is bittersweet. I still cannot see a picture of the twin towers without wincing.
But I yelled and I danced and I played "Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead" from The Wizard of Oz soundtrack. (What, you don't own The Wizard of Oz soundtrack? In San Francisco you can be evicted for that.)
And I drained the whole bottle of 2001 J. Schram, which was drinking great. It's toasty, but also has bright lemon fruit, good acidity and balance. It tastes like victory -- is that napalm in the morning? It tastes like Navy Seals bursting into a chamber with Osama Bin Laden cowering in the corner, using a woman as a human shield. It tastes like a protracted 40-minute gunfight, with Bin Laden thinking his security forces had the planning and firepower to protect him. Bin Laden, hating the United States, feeling the heat of anger. Bin Laden, defiant, sure that the Americans would stand down.
The bullet ripping through his flesh. I don't care if it hurt. The main thing I want is for him to have been facing it, to have known, to have seen The Stars and Stripes on the stealth uniform of the man -- the country -- killing him.
It's an odd celebration. I've been watching CNN for two hours, and I'm watching people yell "Woo!" outside the White House and jump up and down. I admit doing a little bit of it myself, but it has felt forced. I wish this day had come 9 years ago. But maybe this will grow on me, tomorrow. I had given up. Not only would he die of natural causes, I thought, he would also die without us even knowing it had happened. He would just disappear forever, like Amelia Earhart. Fifty years from now people gone wrong would admire his hit and run style, his cowardice, his evil.
It's great that he's gone. I don't know how our grandparents felt when Hitler died, but that's the only parallel I can think of. Osama Bin Laden, the most evil man in the world, dead. And I open sparkling wine (and drain the bottle while watching CNN). It's not like passing a key test, or getting a new job, or any other event that demands bubbly. It's relief. It's pride. It's not as cheery as I pretend. But maybe that's what great celebrations are made of -- we cheer more straightforwardly than we feel.
So here's my cheer: Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead! The witch is dead, and the witch is dead. Ding dong, the wicked witch is dead!
God Bless America.
Posted by W. Blake Gray at 10:20 PM