The Bare Life of Osama bin Laden

I have seen several posts on Twitter and on blogs from Christians who believe it is wrong, on Christian principles, to rejoice in the taking of any life, even Osama bin Laden’s. I’m not sure I “rejoiced” last night when I heard the news, so I hope that this isn’t just a matter of defensiveness, but something strikes me as wrong about such scolding.

First, I’m not sure one can read the New Testament and claim that vengeance is entirely absent from the gospel message. While there is a well-worn cliche about the Old Testament vs. New Testament God, it’s pretty clear that the OT includes plenty of love and the NT includes plenty of vengefulness — indeed the two may even go together (i.e., the cliche “Old Testament God” was so jealous precisely because he loved Israel so much). The liberal valuation of “love” as unambiguously “good” is simplistic and sentimental and essentially doesn’t convince many people. Advocates can claim that the latter is because it’s such a challenging and radical message, but it might also be because it’s such a simplistic and sentimental one that seems to have very little to do with the realities of living.

Second, I will admit that there are many people who have done worse things than bin Laden. Yet bin Laden undoubtedly did really bad things! He engineered a spectacular attack that killed thousands — including followers whose loyalty he cynically manipulated to get them to carry out a suicide attack. He then made a tape for public distribution, boasting and rejoicing in the success of the attack. Is it really a stretch to say that a person like that deserves to die? I don’t think so. I also don’t think it’s especially morally problematic for victims and those who feel solidarity with the victims to rejoice when that deserved death actually takes place.

Finally, the emphasis on how even bin Laden’s life was a “life” seems to me to share in the very worst features of the so-called “ethic of life” that simultaneously rejects abortion, euthanasia, and the death penalty. What poses here as the most awesome and rigorous moral system is actually a complete evacuation of moral judgment — it knows only one category, “life,” and once you have placed something into that category, your moral work is done. A clump of cells, an elderly person kept alive only by machines, a death row inmate — all of these “lives” are somehow the same. Certainly there are similarities to be found, and yet it seems insane to think that the similarity of being “alive” trumps all the other differences. Like the liberal fetishization of “love,” this doctrine seems to me to have nothing to do with life as it’s actually lived.

I am personally against the death penalty, but my reason is not that the (justly convicted) death row inmate doesn’t deserve to die. My reason, rather, is that I don’t trust the actual existing government to apply that punishment justly — in fact, it seems safe to assume that no actual existing government will trustworthy in that matter. Yet I would not begrudge the relative of a murder victim for being glad that the murderer had been killed by a fellow inmate, for instance. Similarly, even though the U.S. government is a problematic agent for this act in a lot of well-known ways, I can’t see any legitimate grounds to begrudge people from being glad that bin Laden is dead.

85 thoughts on “The Bare Life of Osama bin Laden

  1. Couldn’t the legitimate grounds simply be that justice was not served because we didn’t have a trial (or something to that effect)? Would such joy have been felt if Bin Laden had succumbed to a heart attack?

    Differentiating joy in the righteous death of a crazy killing man and joy in “America’s Back, Baby” seems to be a hard distinction to make, as well as discerning how just an act this really was.

  2. My strategy in this instance is simply to refuse to have an opinion on something so easily reterritorialized in either direction. I don’t begrudge people the celebration, even if I find it a little depressing, and I certainly don’t give a shit if it’s in the Gospel, but neither do I feel any particular joy. In fact I’m a bit scared shitless at the possible insanity of any retaliation. I can only hope it doesn’t meet the insanity of our original retaliation.

  3. I had a similar reaction, Anthony. I go to school 5 blocks from the White House, which is terrifying. Lord knows DC is a prime target. I also had trouble feeling anything when I found out except surprise.

  4. My reaction was to stay up specifically to hear what the announcement was after learning they were planning the weird Sunday night statement. When I saw, I thought, “Huh. I guess that makes sense.”

  5. I think the ultimate reason I wrote this post is that something within me revolts whenever a Christian — of whatever stripe, as this tendency seems to be pretty well universal — tries to police people’s emotions. (I personally didn’t even have strong emotions about the event itself, but reacted strongly against such policing.)

  6. I like what you’ve written here, especially the diagnosis of America’s mono-categorical morality. Regarding bin Laden’s death, however, I’m less concerned with those scolding celebration than I am with those celebrating, but not on grounds of Christian principle. One American journalist wrote that bin Laden’s death “marked the end of the war on terror”(Peter Bergen), while many others have disagreed pointing out that “this is not the end of terrorism but then end of a chapter”(Mark Kimmit). Either way, no doubt many believe this to be a victory and an achievement of justice. This is the issue for me, I don’t understand how the death of bin Laden can possibly count as justice. I don’t really have a problem with people celebrating the death of a tyrant but I don’t think it is a celebration of justice.

  7. Adam,

    What differentiates your intervention from the critiques of the celebrations? Why are you not guilty of policing here? I react strongly against celebrating the death of an enemy (not on “bare life” grounds, which is a caricature of the “seemless garment” ethic anyway, but on christological ones). You react strongly against my reaction. Why am I policing, but you’re not?

  8. Seriously, thank you. I was totally put off last night by all the quotes of Bible verses…turn the other cheek, those who pick up the sword…etc. It was like thanks for the reminder! Where would we be without you and the cheap moralistic comments like I serve the Prince of Peace and not the Empire. I think you were spot on in reference to Zizek’s ethics at the end of Monstrosity and Christian moralism.
    0n the other hand, there was also the not surprising it was the troops not 0bama that did it.

  9. Charlie, Your initial comment was bullshit because you artificially isolated a formal element of my argument to set up a spurious logical contradiction (“You object to reacting, but you’re reacting!”). The only way to respond to such a comment is to call it out as bullshit, because accepting its false premises means going down a discursive black hole. That said, I understand that you don’t like me saying your comment is bullshit, so I’ll go easy on you for your follow-up bullshit comment about my choice of bluster over argument.

  10. I guess I expected the Right to respond like they did, but the moral, finger-wagging of shame, shame, shame really surprised me.

  11. Kampen, as I said, they are christological. Christ died at the hands of his enemies and called his disciples to take up their cross and follow him. For this reason, many Christians have died rather than take up the sword against those who persecute them. For this reason, people say things like, “Christians don’t rejoice at the death of murderers. They rejoice at the death of saints” (a quote attributed to Bill Turner).

    Adam’s need to police criticisms of emotional responses by labeling them “policing” looks a lot like a double standard to me. I asked for clarification about the difference, but instead I got an outburst—an indication that perhaps he doesn’t have good answers to the questions. I may be wrong about that—and I would love to stay on topic and learn from Adam about the difference—but my questions were not obviously bullshit or offensive. Unless challenging someone who loves to challenge others is intrinsically bullshit and offensive.

  12. The only way your “spurious logical contradiction” works, Adam, is if you’re operating with some highly dubious theory of emotions. The criticisms of the rejoicing are themselves emotional responses. As was your response to the criticisms.

    I think your answer to the double standard question is: sovereign is he who decides the exception.

  13. re: trials–wasn’t it the case during the French Revolution that the issue of putting the King on trial was raised and then swiftly set aside on the grounds that if the King was put on trial, it followed that he could actually be or at least found to be innocent, thus discrediting the Revolution through the rigorous application of its own principles. Presumably bin Laden raises similar issues. (Did Saddam get a trial or was he just hung?)

  14. Saddam did get a public trial, but then his execution was carried out by a bunch of dudes in a basement somewhere.

    On the trial issue, it seems to me that it might be more politically productive for the US to have remained “in character” in carrying out this operation — basically as a unilateral imperial hegemon, etc. It’s better for everyone to remain aware of what the US actually is, rather than being able to congratulate outselves for representing democracy and the rule of law vs. OBL, etc.

  15. Well, let’s try to look at this another way. Barack Obama has already killed more people than Osama bin Laden. If Obama were assassinated, and you saw someone rejoicing at his death (on the grounds that Obama was a war criminal responsible for the death of thousands and deserved such a death), would you respond to that in the same way that you’d respond to celebrations of bin Laden’s death? If not, why not?

  16. I hear Adam on smug denials of angry joy, but I do wish someone would police these assholes vandalizing mosques.

  17. “I’m amazed that you can even imagine the possibility of someone rejoicing in Obama’s death for that particular reason.”

    If Obama were shot tomorrow, you don’t think there’d be plenty of people in Gaza City celebrating?

  18. I think if 0bama died, there would be a sense of loss and fear that something worst than Bush would retaliate.

  19. Adam:

    I think you make some worthwhile points here, particularly about policing emotions. I am one of those people who posted on Facebook “I refuse to celebrate the death of anyone,” and I stand by it, because this whole scene is way more then emotions, and involves so many more people than the families of 9/11 victims. I was particularly disturbed by the combo of Obama’s statement that Americans can do anything they set their minds to, and the young people cheering on “USA, “USA!” as if we just won some championship game–what is going on strikes me as a particularly American sort of nationalism. This was primarily (not exclusively) a symbolic killing, with primarily symbolic consequences and symbolic reactions, and it is on that level that I (and others, I assume) make such statements. For most people, this operates on a symbolic level, and for victims’ families, things must be dealt with differently. I would hope people with all different opinions about this event would offer sensitivity to victims, but I also think there is room for discussion here: if people who probably have no intimate connection with 9/11 can rejoice in the public eye, then people also have room to speak publicly with dissent.

    (I am still pondering the difference between what you already had in mind to say, and the occasion on which you say it)

    Thanks again for a good post Adam.

  20. Stras, Point taken. I would not begrudge them, either.

    Anthony, I agree, obviously. I understand that I’m focusing my attention on a subset of the less-bad reactions here.

  21. Just saw Adam’s more recent comment: “On the trial issue, it seems to me that it might be more politically productive for the US to have remained “in character” in carrying out this operation — basically as a unilateral imperial hegemon, etc. It’s better for everyone to remain aware of what the US actually is, rather than being able to congratulate outselves for representing democracy and the rule of law vs. OBL, etc.”

    I resonate here.

  22. In Gaza? How many Palestinians do you know? No one I know who lives in the Middle East, or who’s from there, thinks there’s any significant difference between Bush and Obama. Some argue, fairly convincingly, that Obama is worse.

    All of which is beside the point. Obama is a mass-murderer, and like any mass-murderer, his victims (and those who identify with them) would be glad to see him gone. Americans don’t see Obama as a mass-murderer because they don’t see his victims as real people, so of course they wouldn’t see his death the same way they see Osama bin Laden’s – even though bin Laden was an amateur compared to pretty much any modern American president. That “angry joy” doesn’t come from a sense of righteous indignation, it comes from tribalism – so we shouldn’t be surprised that it comes with hatred and fear of Muslims, as well.

  23. Actually from posts I’ve seen today it was our troops that were solely responsible for military actions and not 0bama so the people in Gaza are misinformed. Then again these same people say he is from really Kenya as well.

  24. Mike and I were both thinking of the American reaction, I assume. If Obama were to be shot, my immediate thoughts would be the worry that he’d be replaced by someone even worse — and given that I live in Chicago, I’d also be worried about the possibility of rioting, I guess. But still, I wouldn’t begrudge those who rejoiced at the death of the imperial ruler.

  25. Because the real problem is liberal Christian moralism. In times like these, it’s a good thing we have Police Chief Kotsko to see through all the bullshit.

  26. Yeah, I think the American reaction would be worst than it is today. And I get the anger over Obama being the same if not worst than Bush. Still, there is just that subtle difference…

  27. Certainly emotions can’t be policed (without totalitarian control) – including how Adam and Charlie feel about each other(‘s comments). I do find stras’ comment on Obama a bit puzzling, however. On a statistical level, wouldn’t you have to show how many people have been killed in US military actions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan since his inauguration to say he has killed more people than bin Laden (especially because one could also hold bin Laden responsible to some extent for all the Al-Qaeda-inspired or -directed violence since the ‘90s)? And are all war-related deaths morally equivalent? Certainly Obama isn’t responsible for nearly as many deaths as either Bush (and Cheney) – together over a million. As much as I also oppose Obama’s continuation of the Bush wars (though no American president would have had an alternative), I do not think that war crimes are the most apt charge. The category of war crimes assumes the legitimacy of war (at least under certain modern liberal views), which I am not so willing to subscribe to. Second the same category usually applies to certain crimes IN war (during an otherwise legitimate war) as defined by the Geneva Convention and subsequent revisions rather the crime OF war itself, or at least of certain kinds of war (such as those of aggression). I wonder if stras would say that Obama is more culpable than Qaddhafi for what is happening in Libya. The former would be guilty of aggression (thus of a crime OF war), and the latter of deliberate targeting of noncombatants (hence of war crimes). Either way we would seem to be arguing under the rubric of just war theory, which is at best moot (that is, debatable) – I certainly am not a proponent. The only way out of this conceptual pen, then, is to say that all war is criminal without exception, which maybe a defensible position – until you have to decouple the notion of crime from state-sponsored jurisprudence, and find or found (workable) extra-statist “regimes” of justice (even beyond the ICC).

    Meanwhile, we forget to mourn. Two major wars have been launched by the US on the pretext of diminishing bin Laden’s savage capabilities and punishing him and his cohorts. Ten years, later, I find him the unlikely Helen of Troy, for whom many thousands (even a million) have perished, nations and lands ravaged. We (for most readers here, like me, are complicit) have brutalized even ourselves as a nation and coalition – ethically, financially, politically – and the cycle of revenge goes on. It is also for this damned complicity that I, as a dissenting Obama-voter) would not be the first to impeach him for war crimes – though protest I must continue.

  28. The trouble with nuance! I will say personally that I’m of mixed mind and emotions about the whole thing. Pastorally, we weep with those who weep, and we mourn with those who mourn, meaning we have no choice but to acknowledge the catharsis here, the feelings of closure, the relief, even the happiness and joy. People are emotionally invested in the situation for too many reasons for intellectual argument about why they shouldn’t feel [X] to be anything but risible. Feelings don’t succumb to argument well.

    At the same time, politically, I’m aware that the US has just sent a mission to take out a high-value target, and succeeded in doing so, and a generation ago we’d have called it assassination. “Sent to capture,” “resisted,” whatever – the man was targeted by a SEAL team and is now dead at their hands, with Presidential authorization and DCI oversight. Frankly, that feels insane to me.

    And publicly, the reception of that news has brought out some of the worst in religious sentiment. It remains true that we populate hell with our enemies, because God has an exclusive love of us righteous folk.

    I’m not going to tell someone how they should feel, but I had two reactions, out of my faith. First, incredulity that this action is translated directly into “justice,” especially by Christians, and second, prayer over the death of one of God’s good creations, however twisted by sin. That may sound awfully in-your-face pious of me, but I felt bloody weird about it when I did it, let me tell you. And having done it, I still feel weird about it. “Pray for your enemies, and bless those who persecute you,” met “only say the word, and he will be healed.” There’s plenty of sin on plenty of sides that made the twisted man he was. And plenty of it is ours.

  29. Can’t one reject and be disturbed by the fetish that OBL represents within American ideology? Isn’t celebration of OBL’s death repulsive because it is seen as a wholesale acceptance of racist, fascist, violent capitalism? In that sense, it is still possible to view the actual killing of the man himself as necessary. Sure, the reaction is a “natural human response,” to the fetishized version of OBL, but that’s not really positive, is it?

  30. I agree that all the things you list are terrible, Stephen. None of that takes away from the fact that bin Laden orchestrated appalling mass killings. The fact that U.S. presidents are war criminals does not take away from bin Laden’s guilt. The fact that people use his death as a pretext for racist or nationalistic outbursts does not take it away either.

    It’s blackmail to suggest that thinking bin Laden deserved death means that you are a jingoistic fascist. And I honestly think that many of the good-hearted liberals who want to scold those who think he deserved to die and feel some sense of satisfaction from the event are (unintentionally!) feeding into that blackmail. They’re helping to perpetuate a divide that says either you’re a jingoistic fascist or you’re a bloodless liberal with no emotions — and no capacity for moral judgment whatsoever.

    Contrary to R. O. Flyer’s comment, I don’t think I’m heroic for pointing this out, nor am I particularly unique or original. It’s all part of the long story of how liberals decided that the only moral sentiment they could feel was pity or sympathy. Well, honestly, I don’t feel much sympathy for some twisted rich fuck whose actions give an entire world religion a bad name and whose biggest accomplishments in life consist in nihilistic acts of destruction that couldn’t possibly achieve their goals.

    The thought that such a person would live to a ripe old age and die in his sleep is distressing. He isn’t the only person on whom I would pass that judgment, and the fact that he’s the one who dies while the others live shows how seriously fucked up the world is. And I say this as one who, due to my leftists leanings, wants to sympathize with anyone the U.S. opposes. But come on! We’re now dealing with one less nihilistic rich fuck in the world encouraging people to kill themselves so they can kill a few more. And the only price we pay for that is that the U.S. remains just as much a rogue state as it was yesterday and the day before.

  31. I think the explanation for comment thread ire is simple: those who feel weird about feeling (like myself) usually resort to commenting (on blogs) which is sort of like an emotional response but only much less genuine and you get to annoy people with arguments, counter-accusations and, yes, worst of all, opinions!

  32. So, the enemy of my enemy is also my enemy but at least they’re killing each other? I agree with everything in your latest comment, but I still don’t think that the sentiment that you are expressing coincides with the celebration and flag waving. But yeah, my take away is that the world is a fucking dark place.

  33. It’s hard for me to even imagine bin Ladin as a real human being, after everything he’s been and been made to symbolize, so his death seems surreal. Certainly the staging of it reeks of Hollywood.

    My main reaction was to wonder how this event will impact the “war” in Afghanistan, whether it will give Obama an edge in his struggle with the generals over disengaging. I’ve also read on Asia Times that bin Ladin became expendable to the Saudis as a result of the Arab revolts and the situation in Yemen, where AQ is seen as closer to Iran.

  34. My previous comment referred to Stephen Keating’s, i.e., I figured our starting position was that the world is a fucking dark place.

    Incidentally, today has set a new traffic record for AUFS. Thanks to everyone for disagreeing so vehemently with me.

  35. Regarding OBL and the actions he encouraged, it might be worth contesting the statement that they are “nihilistic acts of destruction that couldn’t possibly achieve their goals.”

    Seems to me that the events in New York on Sept 11, 2001, have actually done a pretty damn good job of drawing (or permitting) the American empire to move into a full-blown economic and political collapse (thereby also threatening the “well-being” of much of the Western world). If I try to imagine things from OBL’s point of view (in a sympathetic manner), I reckon he could look out on the world today and be happy to die knowing what he helped to accomplish.

  36. Oh snap.

    More seriously, amongst other things, I was thinking of the budget drain caused by the post-9/11 wars, the ways in which OBL was used at a tool in an assault on civil rights and the hollowing out of government, and so on.

  37. All those things were bad for the U.S., but I need more evidence that bin Laden actually intended those outcomes. For instance, why would a guy who was outraged by U.S. presence in the Middle East be jonesing for an even bigger and seemingly endless U.S. presence in the Middle East? And why would he particularly care about luring the U.S. to violate liberal principles he didn’t share? That argument seems almost like a clever liberal twist on the “they hate our freedom” meme.

    Overall, I have trouble believing that a person whose ideology is based on crazy fantasies is also simultaneously a geopolitical genius.

  38. One of bin Laden’s main complaints was that the US had too much of a presence in the middle east, especially militarily. I’m pretty sure we have not gotten less involved in middle east politics since 9/11. We’ve got our fingers stuck in a lot of pies over there, more than if not for 9/11.

    I don’t see why bin Laden is supposed to have taken pleasure in Guantanimo or the PATRIOT Act or any of that sort of thing; bin Laden did not actually hate the idea of Americans having civil rights, or any of that nonsense. His motives were closer to home than that: he wanted American influence to drop out of muslim nations. Terrorism does not actually happen because terrorists hate our freedoms. And how bin Laden is supposed to glory in American tax disputes or failed healthcare reform is beyond me.

  39. I see. I wasn’t really looking at it from the angle of intentions. I was looking at what has actually happened regardless of what the intended or imagined outcome might have been. One doesn’t need to be a “geopolitical genius” in order to initiate a series of events that have global consequences. In fact, such moments usually have little regard for the genius (or lack thereof) of the people involved.

  40. Our response to his actions was undoubtedly self-destructive in many respects, but OBL did have more specific goals than “things that are bad for the U.S.” as such — and I stand by my claim that he did not achieve and could not have achieved his goals using the means he used. It’s possible, in fact, that this guy who had never once left the Middle East didn’t actually understand the U.S. very well! For instance, he seemed to think that a little bloodshed would scare our leadership off of their major long-term goals in the Middle East — getting not only the invasion of Afghanistan but another completely gratuitous war in the Middle East seems to me to count as the direct opposite of his goals.

    So I guess what I’m saying is that I’m not convinced by the “OBL is a huge success” meme, which again seems to me to be just a “clever” liberal reversal of the kinds of things conservatives say about him.

  41. Fair enough. And I’m not trying to say that OBL was a huge success — especially considering (what I take to be) some of his own standards of success. I was just pushing back a bit on the statement I quoted in my first comment.

    However, to keep pressing things (and to continue to move away from what OBL may or may not have intended), one might put a bit of a Marxist twist on this and argue that, for America to finally be out of the Middle East, things need to get worse before they get better. America needs to overreach and, rather than sustaining things as they were before 2001, America needs to commit to further military exploits which are unattainable and which then make it impossible for America to return to its pre-2001 level of military dominance.

    Indeed, I don’t think one would be too far afield to see some specific post-9/11 events as contributing in some ways to the current wave of uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East (the Iraq occupation, bombings in Yemen, the public gaining knowledge of Egypt as a torture centre, etc., etc.).

    Anyway, I’m generally pretty skeptical about the whole “it’s gotta get worse before it gets better, therefore we need to contribute to the worsening of things” argument, but I’ve been rethinking it quite a lot in the last year or so. If one comes to accept it, then there could be serious implications for how one chooses to act.

  42. The bad thing about relying on “overextension” is that it allows a whole lot of damage to be done, which then diverts energy toward repair when it could’ve been directed toward building something. For instance, the Republicans had obviously overextended in a lot of ways in terms of economic policy by the time the financial crisis started — but man, did they ever cause a lot of suffering along the way, and all we got in return was Obama.

  43. Yeah, I understand Obama to be a part of the worsening of things.

    And I’m sure that some Egyptians are saying something similar. Man, Mubarak caused a lot of suffering along the way, and all we got in return was the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces! Things there haven’t yet finished getting worse.

    Which really makes me wonder if things are ever only worsening. Sure, there are brief moments — Events, apocalypses, whatever you want to call them — that create a space for something different, more hopeful, more life-giving, but such moments are brief flashes within history that come and go with little warning.

    If that’s the case, then contributing to the worsening of things or working for the bettering of things both seem like equally futile exercises… but now I’m way off topic…

  44. David, my basis for saying that Obama has killed more than bin Laden comes from military statistics indicating that Obama has killed nearly 2000 people in Pakistan alone in his first two years as president; we know that the death toll in Afghanistan has been even higher. That alone puts his body count higher than bin Laden’s.

    And no, I don’t see a moral distinction between those killed by Predator drones and those killed by suicide bombs. Nor do I credit bin Laden with the hundreds of thousands murdered in Iraq and Afghanistan following America’s invasion and occupation of those countries. Afghans and Iraqis are not mere puppets motivated by the “inspiration” of some magical jihadist idea – they’re motivated to resist the violent invasion and occupation of their countries.

  45. To address the initial post a bit more directly, I had to smile at your second paragraph, Adam. How refreshing, to see someone finally stand up to all the wrongheaded messages promoting radical selfless love we’re deluged with on a daily basis, and make a bracing endorsement of viciousness and bloodlust instead!

  46. Here’s a more substantive response: The fact that there are worse things in the world doesn’t mean that the sentimental message of “love” isn’t problematic. There are like 200 million people who are capable of pointing out that the nationalistic and racist bullshit people have been spewing is bullshit. I don’t have anything unique to say about all that. I do have something relatively more unique to say about the “love” stuff, and so I said it. I’m not trying to refresh anyone or to be brave in standing up to it, or whatever. You have the right to be sarcastic, certainly, but I also have the right to say you’re being dumb about it.

  47. How is a dismissal of love as “sentimental” unique? The fact that the overwhelming response to such events as these is petty, vicious, exulting in violence, would seem to demonstrate that there’s not very many on the “love” side of things. And if you imagine that there’s hundreds of millions of people out there willing to openly denounce the jingoistic shit that’s been erupting everywhere, well, you travel in mighty rarefied company.

    As far as demonstrating that love is “problematic”, you’ve done no such thing – you’ve only said that it’s not necessarily Biblical and “doesn’t convince many people.” Well, no shit. It doesn’t convince many people because it’s easier, and often more fun, to scream for blood.

  48. A lot of times, what you say is boring to me, Stras. Not necessarily wrong! I often agree! But boring. In this case, I have already anticipated the objection that people reject the ethic of “love” because it’s so challenging, etc. — so that repeating that objection is, ipso facto, boring.

  49. This thread has probably run its course, but I was too busy yesterday to participate in the shitstorm of activity.

    Something I’ve come to discover in my recent adventures in church attendance is just how dour the whole liberal/progressive church thing can be. Obviously, if I were looking for a good time I’d find something else to do with my Sunday morning; but the fact remains, its sullen downerism is of a decidedly different kind than the evangelical variety I grew up with, but a downer it remains.

    Dan Downer

  50. There was a picture released of the president and staff watching the assassination as it happened. This image chills me as much as the pro-USA chanting in the street. It has also helped me understand Adam’s post. Adam’s point is not that it is wrong to find the actions of the U.S. Government or the rhetoric of the pro-USA mob reprehensible, but that we need to focus our response in the right direction. All the talk of loving our enemy does not change the fact that most of the people criticizing the celebration of OBL’s demise will support Obama in the next election. This is the power of ideology.

    The whole thread reminded me of something Adam wrote less than a week ago:

    “Examples could be multiplied, and I’m pretty sure the same pattern would emerge in each case: pathologizing individual emotional states provides an alternative to any broader systemic critique. The problem is never with the social system — the problem is that you are not able to adapt to it adequately. The question of whether some things shouldn’t be adapted to never comes up.”

    By pathologizing the joy of others, are we not ignoring what we should be doing, as well as the fact that OBL should not tolerated?

    Adam, hope I didn’t bore you too much!

  51. Or to rephrase the last thought: tolerate OBL if you want to love your neighbor, but don’t tolerate our political system that acts like the dark knight with no accountability or transparency.

  52. See, Adam, what you’ve been saying is as utterly boring to me as what I’ve been saying apparently is to you. The only difference, I guess, is that what you’ve been saying is boring and morally repulsive.

  53. If you’re going to play the “you bore me too” card, you should probably do so sometime prior to posting your seventh comment on a single post of your boring interlocutor’s blog.

  54. Regarding “boring” — It might be useful to think of the word in the sense of “drilling deep”; then the “love” argument, though made endless times, must be made again. Boring. But what other choice is there? That, it seems to me, is why stras finds Adam’s response “morally repulsive” — i.e., for its apparent dismissal of love.

    I truly do value and enjoy much of what you write, Adam (I’ve lurked around here for a while, and read more elsewhere), but the proposal of love in stras’ posting of 10:26am (which begins with “How is a dismissal of love …”), seems extraordinarily important, dangerous if done right, and essentially Christian. No?

  55. My study of feminist and other liberation theologies makes me very suspicious of those who see “love” as always and everywhere subversive (even with the caveat “if done right”). I’m particularly suspicious when white males throw out this argument, and even moreso when they throw it out there in a way that depends on the appeal of the counterintuitive (“but isn’t it just so fucking radical to do the opposite of what people think!?”).

  56. I resonate with Adam’s discontent with Christian moralizing about American jubliation at OBL’s death, even though I think I resonate more deeply with the views of many who’ve hesitated over Adam’s initial formulation.

    I found this a thoughtful related comment, by Gary Younge in yesterday’s Guardian.

  57. I’m more suspicious of white males who deploy arguments along the lines of “celebrating violence is okay, and my argument in favor of celebrating that violence is okay because I perceive it to be more intellectually valuable.”

  58. Definitely keep me up to date if you ever find someone arguing that. Also, I applaud your effort to shame people who agree with their own opinions and arguments. Your contribution to this discussion has been considerable.

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