On the front page of the Irish Times this morning Lara Marlow asks: “WHAT WAS Barack Obama thinking during that long moment of silence, after he laid the wreath at the foot of the Survivor Tree?”
This great piece of writing from Walter Kirn outlines his own complex thoughts:
It had to end somewhere, History’s Greatest Manhunt, but the fact that it climaxed in dull suburbistan next to a training base for the hunters’ allies proved less startling than the discovery that the hunt was still going on at all. Like the Monday morning shock of 9/11, the Sunday evening shock of Bin Laden’s death caught America flossing, concluding a tragedy that we’d stopped thinking about with a catharsis that we’d stopped hoping for.
It was a moment of spooky historical symmetry, especially as it played out on TV. Down a long hallway that symbolized the past strode a grim-faced first-term president whose skin color, which we still noticed despite ourselves, made him look like a figure from the future. Just as we had when Bush spoke way back when, we knew by the time Obama opened his mouth just about everything he had to say, which only heightened our need to hear him say it.
What followed was a patriotic head rush, the first thrilling chill of tribal unity that we’d enjoyed in a decade that felt like three. For an instant, I was ashamed of this euphoria — after all, a human being had died, and my taxes had paid for the bullets that blew his face off — but then I relaxed and let myself regress, perversely pleased that geek-era America hadn’t entirely lost the John Wayne ugly streak that separates us from the Belgians.
Like the pug-nosed New York City firefighters whose machismo I’d borrowed ten years earlier, the Navy Seals aroused a part of me that I’d kept hidden but never out of reach, much like the hunting knife stashed under my car seat. It appeared that Obama shared my instincts. As he uttered the pitiless words ‘at my direction’ in reference to the lethal raid, his educated features hardened slightly.
Indeed. The professor warrior. Kirn finishes:
We finally got our man last week, it’s true (although we may never know quite how we got him), but here was the trouble: history got him first, reducing him to fat-Elvis, late-Howard Hughes mode. Frustrating side note or devastating irony?