The Harmlessness (and Inevitability) of “USA! USA!”

I’m going to depart from my usual mood — appeals to rationality, &c &c — to differ, for the moment, with Salon’s attempt to take the high road by condemning, as classless and un-American, the exuberant celebration of our enemy’s death.

I remain in general a big fan of the High Road. Toby’s West Wing proclamation — “we’re going to raise the level of public discourse in this country!” — strikes me as embodying the highest duty of public service. But let’s not pretend for a moment that we’re not entitled to celebrate a great victory just becomes in the form of another’s death; or that the history of this country is anything to the contrary. Remember, this is a country where hangings were social events, up until just a hundred years ago. We’ve evolved beyond that, thankfully, but celebrating the death of a mass-murdering madman is hardly contrary to our heritage.

And, that part of the war on terror that now draws to a close was never anything like the European old-style engagements where, despite the carnage of the battlefield, belligerent leaders met and conferred in civilised* chambers before, during, and after the conflict. This was not a war that would end at a courthouse in Appomattox, or with the old Honors of War respected. Despite that, we expect decency and basic ethics to be observed when human lives are at issue — for example, we expect honorable men to abstain from torture — but where the enemy leader would’ve killed every American civilian, to a man, and inspired others to do no better, the same civilians are entitled to celebrate the step back into security signaled by his death.

Salon’s writer observes that we’ve done a lot for fear — and lost a part of ourselves in the process. But Bin Laden’s death, rationally or otherwise, will do much to abate that fear, and if it can bring some return to normalcy, then that too is worth cheering. And flag-waving. Definitely flag-waving.

Also, this picture was in the NYTimes


  1. I am, at best, ambivalent about the exuberance manifested at the recent news–the exitement of my Baltimore namesake notwithstanding. (

    I still believe the best way to destroy an enemy is by turning him into a friend.

  2. I remain in general a big fan of the High Road.

    I am going to take the High Road in responding to this statement….

    1. But if you take the low road, you could be in Scotland afore him…

      … I’ll just get my coat now.

  3. Steve · ·

    What’s with the asterisk?

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