The Death of bin Laden Signals a New Era for our Generation
The killing of Osama bin Laden has served as a momentous release for our generation. The lanky, bearded man donning fatigues and holding an AK-47 has haunted dreams and reinforced fears of a looming attack for almost a decade.
For those of us who came of age in the terrorist-hunting, airport security-laden era of post-9/11 paranoia, bin Laden’s death reminded us that he was human — not the boogie man of childhood nightmares.
In the absence of an acceptable reason for the violence and death of 9/11, bin Laden was built up into not just a terrorist, but a symbol of terror itself. While his death by no means marked the end of terrorism, it provided a sense of closure and vindication.
On the campuses of Penn State, Ohio State and West Point, among others, there was an outpouring of joy upon hearing the news of his death. Students amassed in quads, waving American flags and singing. It may seem morbid to celebrate anyone’s death, but for many across the nation, fear of bin Laden has loomed over the last 10 years. He propelled the United States into a constricting culture of heightened security at our national landmarks, sports events and airports. The American identity was fraught with fear, paranoia and accusation.
Bin Laden’s death probably won’t put an end to the fear or drastically change foreign policy, but that might be the significance of his death; he’s raised an entire generation to practice their politics with suspicion and fear, and that will last longer than his life. His grainy video dispatches were this generation’s duck-and-cover drills, instilling the same constant fear that catastrophe could come at any moment.
Much like the fall of the Berlin Wall symbolized the end of an era of restriction, blatant disregard for human rights, and the constant threat of nuclear holocaust, bin Laden’s death was a similarly cathartic event. May 2 was the last chapter in the hunt that began on 9/11.
In the years after 9/11 he became superhuman; a dark shadow, a grainy figure on a television screen holding an AK-47, yet we could all call that picture to mind at any moment. It was permanently ingrained. Perhaps this is why his death is more of a symbolic victory than anything.
Despite all the celebrations, the sense of relief, the reality of bin Laden’s influence lingers — our generation has been shaped by his actions. The simple fact remains: while dumping bin Laden’s lifeless body into the North Arabian Sea may have put America’s most hated evildoer to rest, terrorism and its impact on our society lives on.