Usama Bin Laden is dead.
The man whose face has become associated with terror, war, destruction, and inhuman chaos has been annihilated. Crowds outside the White House and in Times Square greeted the news with cheers and celebration. Al Qaeda greeted the news with vows of retaliation and retribution.
For Americans, this is a moment for relief, for triumph. It’s been a long time coming. For me, I’m not sure if the whole thing has quite sunk in.
Maybe you’re wondering what this topic has to do with a writing blog…or a writerly blog…or at least a blog maintained by writers to deal primarily with writing topics. Maybe it just has to do with me, as an American, celebrating the victory of our forces overseas, and the downfall of one of the most hated men of recent memory.
But I do actually have a writerly reason for talking about UBL. Usama Bin Laden is — was — one of those devastating figures who was capable of dividing almost everyone who knew about him into one of two camps. You adored and followed him, or you despised every fiber of his being. I don’t know many people who would think of Bin Laden and say, “Oh, he’s a decent fellow, but I’m rather indifferent to him.” No. You hate him, or you love him.
I think even the people who loathed the man would have to admit that he — in some ways like Hitler — had an enormous power of personality. You take one look at his face, and you have to say, “That is a dangerous man.” You take one look at his face, and in some way you can understand why people would follow him.