By Cassandra Tribe
On May 1st, 2011, President Obama announced that Osama Bin Laden, leader of the al Qaeda had been killed. With this announcement, one of the most painful decades in American history was brought to a close.
Since Bin Laden authorized the 9/11 attacks on the U.S., we, as a country — as a people — have suffered from lives defined by fear. Despite the fact that after 9/11, al Qaeda and Bin Laden’s influence waned, they remained important to us as a symbol of terrorism that we sought to bring to justice in an attempt to heal our pain.
We — the people — have had to choose whether supporting the war on terror, with its high costs in money and lives, was more important than our own well-being in difficult economic times. We — the people — have suffered form the political and economic strain that the war on terror has placed on our country and relations with other countries, but we have done so with understanding and by choice.
This pursuit of Bin Laden has also served to unite us all and give us a common boogeyman, a monster whose horrors were so great they made the ones in our personal lives more bearable. While there is great rejoicing that the leader and symbol of terrorism against the West is no more, we must also be aware that there will be a period of strange grief to follow. Without a larger-than-life boogeyman to overshadow personal suffering, many will feel the true depth of their lives and losses for the first time. It will be harder to stand behind increases in military spending and increased military commitments when the reality that so many in this country are starving and homeless is at the forefront of our thinking.
Whether or not you believe that Bin Laden was captured and killed when the government said he was, or if you believe it is a gross manipulation of the voting public, we have to recognize that what has been a common unifying and distracting symbol for all of us has been destroyed. The war against terror is far from over, but we would do well to redefine what the primary terrorist that we pursue is.
As a country, we need to focus our efforts to fight the terrorist within. The one whose suicide attacks take the form of homelessness, hunger, and unemployment. The one who rallies their soldiers with messages that promote greed, hate, partisan self-interest and apathy.
Care must be taken that we do not race to find a new boogeyman abroad to distract us from this battle at home. We ahve fought and suffered overseas for long enough. While there is still more work to be done to end the reign of terror that al Qaeda began, it is time to bring our energy home and work on the battle within.
It is time to come home. it is time to take care of our own. it is time to heal the wounds that began long before that day in September.