Monday, May 02, 2011

Bin Laden's Legacy

So, after 10 years of hiding (in plain sight, apparently), Mr. Bin Laden has finally been hunted down and shot dead in a gunfight while hiding behind his youngest wife. Rather an appropriate end, I would say. And now that he's gone, even though the end of 2011 is still many months away, I suggest we nominate him as Person of the Year...

Think about it: Where were you 10 years ago and what was your life like? Specifically, did you think about terrorism much? Even though we had experienced an earlier attempt to bomb the World Trade Center, not to mention various attacks on embassies, warships, and tourists, crazed jihadist attacks were not on our radar that much. For me it was purely theoretical: Sure there were people out there that hated us and might try something, but that was just a factoid filed away in my brain. The possibility seldom came up, and was generally on a PBS documentary when it did.

But then that day hit us like a missile impact, the shock waves spread out in every direction, and suddenly terrorism was catapulted to the top of every one's attention list.

Osama bin Laden changed everything.

Even in the midst of the Great Recession, while we were loosing houses, jobs, and retirement, it didn't go away. The proof? All the people waving flags outside the White House last night, the people singing the national anthem at Ground Zero, the kids who grew up with this thing looming over them texting each other that "Bin Laden wuz killed." The awareness that we can be attacked at any moment has bubbled just beneath the surface for 10 years, and will as far as we can see into the future.
Perhaps the ‘Arab Spring’ really will overcome raging Islamic fundamentalism with the joys of secular democracy. But even if that day comes, it is a long way off. Body scans and Homeland Security bureaucracies are now part of everyday life, and they will not go away just because Osama bin Laden has been dispatched. We must continue to live our lives with occasional furtive glances over our shoulders as the next terrorist attack lurks in the shadows behind us.

That is bin Laden’s legacy.

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