We’re processing the news of Osama bin Laden’s death in all sorts of ways. Sunday night a baseball stadium full of fans watching the Phillies/Mets game got the news via their personal gadgetry. “USA! USA! USA!” The verbal wave swept around the stadium as the ball game suddenly became irrelevant.
Spontaneous celebrations erupted outside the White House and in New York; students flooded the quadrangles and greens of college campuses; the nation collectively lifted the lid on a decade’s worth of emotion and anxiety.
I didn’t hear the news until the following morning–yesterday morning. I took it in, found my own thoughts and emotions bubbling up, and figured I’d blog about it, but spent most of the time refurbishing the blog’s appearance instead. I’ve been taking a bit of a break from the current American and global scene, retreating to the relatively safe venues of entertainment and sports as a way to unplug and re-gather a fresh sense of energy. It’s a little less involved than, say, following folks like Hemingway and Fitzgerald to Paris–besides, have you heard how long it takes to get a passport?
So yesterday I found myself sprucing up the blog and listening to sports talk radio. Lo and behold, Bin Laden’s death and the cultural response to it had invaded every segment and show that would otherwise be devoted to dissecting the NFL draft, assessing the Colorado Rockies’ season thus far, or jibber-jabbering about hockey and soccer. I was too intrigued to turn it off. Jim Rome couldn’t change the topic to sports despite several attempts, and he eventually went with the flow. To his credit and to my surprise, he didn’t leap onto the party-hearty bandwagon. His callers, many of them military men, offered commentary that ranged from the “woo-hoo!” response to the more serious and thoughtful responses that Bin Laden’s death was a life taken as a necessary outcome of justice. The saddest comments came from a couple of callers who said justice had been done for Pat Tillman, the former NFL player who signed up and went to Afghanistan, where he was killed by friendly fire.
I’m glad to see the good and thoughtful responses rolling in from the clergy. Our ELCA Presiding Bishop, Mark Hanson’s response can be found here:
There’s a pastor in my area, Pastor Dave Risendal, who evidently had many of the same feelings I’ve had and has crafted a very good statement in response. Find it here.
Pastor Risendal’s statement is about the caliber of response that I’ve been trying to manage myself, but it’s just not coming. I guess I’m still, in a way, an American expatriate living in-country. Instead of busying myself with the companionship of other expatriates at a Parisian cafe next to the Seine, I’m plugging away at an interim ministry with college kids, finding wonderful companionship with a woman I figured I’d never be lucky enough to meet, and escaping through the worlds of sports and entertainment. Like the American expatriates of the 1920’s and ’30’s, I expect I’ll return. But I don’t really know when or if this particular visa has a stay limit.