On May 2, much of the Twitterverse – and the free world – went abuzz and agog over the apparent death of Osama Bin Laden. Save for the occasional reflexive online press releases on how social media had something to do with it, there was a somewhat glowing tinge of triumph, that the death of Osama meant a new dawn, a milestone, a very important moment that the “free world” (emphasis on the quotes) should celebrate.
There’s one less bad guy in the world, as the author Nicholas Sparks wrote on his Twitter account. We can now be free from the clutches of a man who, in many ways, had the single most murderous and twisted interpretation and implementation of a sick and sadistic ideology that he can rightfully claim to be his own. The war is over… or so we think.
There’s celebration in Washington, as there is co-celebration here in Manila. It may “matter less” here, yet our familiarity with the pain and toll of terrorism should justify a reaction from these shores. But there’s something unsettling about rejoicing about the death of enemies or even terrorists: not the earnest self-reflection that comes with the reality that Osama’s death isn’t “victory,” but a cold, hard reality of a protracted war.
Not that terrorists shouldn’t die in a War on Terror – this is, after all, a global purge against them – but it somehow reinforces the idea of “one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.” There’s a sort of obvious juxtaposition: those who dance because Osama died do so at the expense of his supporters, who mourn for the death of an ideologue. And the seeds of terrorism often grow from the nourishment brought on by emotions.
For all its military might, the United States can learn a lot from us here in the Philippines. We’ve killed many terrorists of many different sorts in these islands: international terrorists, community terrorists, so-called terrorists. Yet there was never a feeling of closure when a terrorist passes on, for terror – and the ideology that perpetuates terror – outlives guns, bombs, and terrorists. Sure, there’s one less bad guy in the world, but that never meant having one less bad idea.