As with any unexpected news story, reaction comes in steps. The first, in this case, is jubilation. As The New York Post said, “We Got ‘Em!” Sometimes when a monster is killed, though, something in you wants him alive – just so you can know he knows he actually lost in the end.
But forget that. The initial reaction is triumphant: a feeling of justice done; of unfinished business dealt with; of a hurtful wound cauterized.
The next step for me was thinking about Barack Obama and luck. If there’s one thing we Americans want and expect from our presidents, it’s that they’re blessed with good fortune, and that they then spray their fairy dust on the rest of us.
When Jimmy Carter sat in the Oval Office, you got to think the gods had turned against him, with his double-digit inflation and gas lines. You knew he had lost his mantle of heaven when his helicopter mission to recue the American hostages in Iran failed tragically in a sandstorm.
When Ronald Reagan took over, he seemed to be charmed. We often commented on his good luck. The luck of the Irish! It was part of his popularity.
And now President Obama – whose stars seemed to be aligning badly – may have his luck restored. Not a single American casualty in this operation. And he pulled off the mission just when the country most needs a jolt of self-confidence.
The next step for me was to ask: Why’d it take ten years to find OBL? There he was “hiding” not in a cave, but near or on a Pakistani military compound, apparently protected by the very government we’ve been propping up with billions in U.S. aid. Are we chumps?
Don’t answer that.
But my final step is back at the beginning – and that is overjoyedness. I want to go out and shake hands with strangers, my fellow Americans. This is one of those moments we can share without a squabble, without any words at all. Just a smile and a nod. We got ‘em. It’s restorative.