I wasn't there. I was actually at a small religious freedom rally outside the White House yesterday. By that point, the celebrating crowds had drifted away except for one small group that tried to get a desultory shout of U.S.A. going. It didn't work too well.
But on Sunday night, a crowd of mostly college students took to the streets to party. To celebrate victory.
On September 11, 2001, crowds took to the streets to celebrate a victory over us.
Ah, but, it's different! Bin Laden was a bad guy. Not an innocent person. Except...is it? It pulled people together, it caused many people to forget internal differences for a moment. But at the same time, there is something deeply disturbing about celebrating anyone's death. And something deeply disturbing about the parallels.
At the same time, there was no violence. As yet, there has been no retaliation. Al Qaeda, of course, is denying that Bin Laden is dead, and with the body already buried at sea, it might be hard to prove. (A rapid burial is required by Muslim custom and, as it turns out, he got the full rites some would say he did not deserve...for which I give kudos to the servicemen and to the chaplain involved). On the other hand, he was apparently identified by at least one of his wives.
So, here is the question. What is victory? And should we celebrate it? If we do, then we have to acknowledge that others will celebrate what they see as their victory over us. We cannot have one without the other and the other side of shouts of USA will be flag burning. Always. Perhaps what we really need to do is simply accept that fact.