This has been a bad week for me. Four days ago I was happy. I was on the top of the world. I had a column in the can, as we say, and that's a good thing. I was kicking back on a Sunday evening, nothing to do but watch "60 Minutes," specifically a segment about an adorable racehorse.
Then, "We interrupt this interesting program to urgently tell you about something that happened hours ago that will be retold to you over and over again for the next week." The worst: I was watching my now irrelevant column go to press in slow motion. I could have written a new one, but the old one was already laid in. Argh!
It's like when I drove a cab. My brain told me the light was green, so I drove through the intersection. At the last second I realized that my brain had tricked me as I saw the approaching Honda, and that remaining second felt like a full minute, while the Honda pancaked into my Plymouth. Then I got psychiatric care, and here I am.
"So what's your point, Wes?"
My point is, boy oh boy, now I get to write about Osama bin Laden's death just in time to be 10 days late on the subject, and after everyone else in the world has weighed in on it. Gosh, what am I going to say?
I'm going to say just what you knew I would. Why are we celebrating so much? Seriously. What theories can we come up with to explain the exuberance? Does anyone really think this changes the balance of power in the world? Will Exxon refrain from wrongdoing now? Can we give the oil wells back? Are the troops coming home tomorrow?
Watching the college kids outside the White House singing the Star Spangled Banner out of key and then breaking into chants of "USA is number one" I found myself wondering how Americans were ever proud of the country before we got so good at killing people. I mean, I know we're awesome now, but what did we do to generate pride before Navy Seals and Predator Drones?
One theory I've heard is that kids today have grown up in fear of al Qaeda just the same way that people my age grew up in fear of nuclear war. So Osama's death to them is just like total nuclear disarmament was to us. Remember how we danced in the streets? How we shouted, "USA is number one" when that treaty went down? It was all about that massive release from fear.
I'm not satisfied with that theory. I do like the idea that whatever the celebration is, it's analogous to something. Analogies put me in the mind of kittens are to cats as puppies are to blanks, and kittens and puppies are sweet. But I don't think we've got the right analogy. I think we need a game analogy. Team America made a touchdown.
The United States is no longer a country. We're a team now. We've grown up. We've reached a new level. We sacked their quarterback. Now they have to field another quarterback. Ha!
Signs of the impending stupocalypse
Americans are sure that their president arranged for bin Laden's burial at sea to keep jihadists from making pilgrimages to his grave. It occurs to almost no one that the move also prevents the spectacle of Americans dancing on it. Even now, Americans are incapable of knowing when they are getting the guidance they need. This is why your coffee cups warn you that coffee is hot.
The operation to kill bin Laden was named Operation Geronimo. They probably thought they were honoring the Apache hero. Yeah, that's it. They thought of naming the operations after other admired historic figures, but none of them quite fit. Operation Gandhi: too nonviolent. Operation Friedrich Nietzsche: too anti-Semitic. Operation Jesus: too preachy. Operation Florence Nightingale: too tongue-in-cheek. Geronimo was just the last choice standing.