Bin Laden is Dead, Nationalism is Not.

Not really news anymore, but worth marking. Watching footage of cheering crowds in front of the White House, and listening to the chants of drunk undergrads*, I can only think of this Vonnegut quote:

“There are plenty of good reasons for fighting, I said, but no good reason ever to hate without reservation, to imagine that God Almighty Himself hates with you, too. Where’s evil? It’s that large part of every man that wants to hate without limit, that wants to hate with God on its side. It’s that part of every man that finds all kinds of ugliness so attractive.” (Mother Night)

I thought Obama’s speech was measured and somber, while still invoking the usual nationalistic rhetoric. Vonnegut talked of nations as a kind of “granfalloon“, a false community. Here’s Mother Night again:

“”You hate America, don’t you?” she said.
“That would be as silly as loving it,” I said. “It’s impossible for me to get emotional about it, because real estate doesn’t interest me. It’s no doubt a great flaw in my personality, but I can’t think in terms of boundaries. Those imaginary lines are as unreal to me as elves and pixies. I can’t believe that they mark the end or the beginning of anything of real concern to the human soul. Virtues and vices, pleasures and pains cross boundaries at will.”

A pretty awful person died today. I’m not going to mourn his passing. But I won’t be out chanting “U. S. A.” either. There’s more than enough of that going around, and it doesn’t end in peace and understanding.

* Who, to be fair, had been drinking all day on account of it being graduation weekend.



  1. joshmccabe

     /  May 2, 2011

    I’m awaiting Obama’s “mission accomplished” speech where he tells us his plan for bringing the troops home. I’m not holding my breath through.

  2. bpitt

     /  May 2, 2011

    Well-said Dan. I am not sure if I am more dismayed or afraid of the nationalism seen throughout the U.S. I, too, will not mourn his passing, but isn’t it a little grotesque to cheer and chest-pump following the murder of a human being?

    @Josh: Seconded.

  3. 1g

     /  May 2, 2011

    the people in crowds look like radicals same as in the middle east when they are american burning flags.

    wishing harm to others is a bad idea. where does it end ?

  4. mommarcycarol

     /  May 2, 2011

    Mark Twain (who leads directly to Vonnegut) said it well, as usual: “I’ve never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure.”

  5. whiterabbitwordpress

     /  May 15, 2011

    I think America has reigned terror in many ways identical to or even beyond that of any terrorist they have chased around the world after training.

    I don’t believe for a second following the evidence that OBL was behind the 911 attacks – and I find it hard to believe so many people could be so blind as to follow a farsical campaign again and again to catch another of america’s ‘enemies’ under thinly veiled land and resource grabs disguised as WMD claims, Communism, Witches or Terrorists. The death of OBL proves nothing, solves nothing, means nothing because he was not the problem; United States greed is at the heart of all its woes.

    It is sadly true what they say – the winners write (and re-write) history and History is just more propaganda.

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