Of War, Symbols, and Bin Laden

“All wars are follies, very expensive and very mischievous ones.  In my opinion, there never was a good war or a bad peace.  When will mankind be convinced and agree to settle their difficulties by arbitration?”
~Benjamin Franklin

This week’s quote, and thoughts on war in general, was stirred by an event that took place late last night, stirring a great many cheers across this nation. Not long before midnight here, on the east coast of the United States, President Barack Obama came on the news to announce that Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks in 2001, responsible for the deaths of thousands of world citizens, was dead at the hands of U.S. Navy Seals.

The news broadcast images of crowds cheering all across the country. Played old images of the Twin Towers, the screams, the horror, the tears. Showed soldiers on the march. Flags waved, and America howled.

In the streets, and on Twitter, an old cry arose: “Mission Accomplished,” the short-lived and infamous words of the Bush Administration. But therein should come the caution. War still drums on, dear fellows, and a man is just a man. A bullet may put a body to the sand, but it does not end a war. It does not raise a white flag, and usher us all to quiet and to calm. Perhaps it lures one into false senses of security, helps one forget but…Bin Laden is not powerful as a man, he is powerful as a symbol. Those that would declare a war over for the death of one man in a network of hundreds…I do not understand it. It is beyond me.

And in that regard, I end with the sign off I had from twitter last night: Symbols are powerful things. Their creation. Their destruction. But remember—the symbol is never the sum. Cheer, but do not call the battles won.

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