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Of Catharsis and Human Nature

I am not going to talk at any great length about the ramifications of the death of bin Laden, because I am an artist and a gardener and I don’t know politics. I don’t know whether this is the victory condition of the war on terror or whether Al Quaeda is going to promptly blow up every landmark they can get at and we will go back to cowering in the closet for fear of terrorist bogeymen.

I also don’t believe that anybody else knows for sure either, and I find I don’t much care for predictions—we’ll all find out together when we get there. If you feel you must speculate, there are some lovely blogs out there where they will be happy to discuss it with you. This is not one of them.

What I do want to say, however, is that no matter how you feel about the whole issue, anybody who is busy yelling at other people for their reactions needs to shut t’hell up and write fifty times on the chalkboard I will not shame people because their reactions to large and emotional events are different than mine.

Catharsis is complicated. People process emotions any number of ways, and nobody gets to tell you what emotion is appropriate to any given situation. We are what we are, we feel as we feel, this is a big weird strange thing that none of us have much experience with, and if you want to dance in the aisles and scream and break out the booze, do it. If you want to be sad because of so much wasted life on every side, do it. If you want to wander around haughtily telling people “Well, nothing’s going to CHANGE, you REALIZE that!” then…kindly wait until Tuesday, that’s really not helpful right at the moment. People are processing, here.

It really doesn’t matter if it’s vengeance or relief or slaying a dragon. It’s probably all of them and a couple more things that don’t go in conveniently cut-and-dried emotional boxes.

This is big weird shit. This is big weird shit with an incredibly long lead time. It means something to people, and people have to get big weird shit out however they can. This is catharsis. We shake, we laugh, we cry, generally all at the same time, we toast the military with our best booze, we cry some more. Some of us go party, some of us hide in the closet, some of us make appallingly bad jokes, whatever. We feel what we feel.

And that is fine. And don’t let anybody tell you it’s not.

Originally published at Tea with the Squash God. You can comment here or there.

Addressing the "I'm a gardener" part of this post.

I liked your pond post on Beautiful Wildlife Garden. I've always wanted a pond (going so far as to start digging one behind my dorm room in highschool--at least until the dorm matron caught me).

Edited at 2011-05-02 03:49 pm (UTC)

Thank you for this.

I can understand reactions all along the spectrum, but as it is, I'm 26 and therefore the pursuit of Osama bin Laden specifically, and the concept of the War on Terror in general, has informed the entirety of my adult life to date. Yes, I realize that nothing much will probably really change, but I am, indeed, processing, dammit(!).

I foresee MetaQuoting in this post's future.

*stands up and applauds*

Jeezum crumb, thank you.

Yes, pretty much this exactly.

I've seen a lot of rehashing of the discussions we had when Jerry Falwell died, and this dude was at least a couple higher up on the Evil scale than Falwell.


I am a Bad Liberal on this point: I do not feel that I'm obligated to be sad at the death of a vile individual, or even to refrain from celebration at same, just because said individual happens to share DNA with me and six billion other people.

YES, a thousand times! And thank you for saying it!

Makes me feel less bad about thinking this is hilarious --


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One of many many reasons I am a squeeing fan girl of yours, is because of posts like this. Thank you for bringing insight to something I was trying to find ways to say.

"I will not shame people because their reactions to large and emotional events are different than mine."

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And if our emotional reaction is to be deeply disturbed by all the celebration over shooting some guy? Seems like a bit of a Catch-22 there.


Plus, as one of the bloggers I read this AM was trying to say, it's not that you're not allowed to have a party--it's that the televising of big street parties only again feeds the perceptions that drove this man and his followers in the first place.

Have your emotional reaction, because, indeed, no emotion is "inappropriate", just try to understand that some locations for where you air your reaction might be inappropriate. Your private blog? Great. Someone else's predominantly Muslim blog? Maybe not quite so great.

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