What Osama’s death means to the rest of the world



Osama Bin Laden’s death really was the shot heard around the world. From the Varsity Villas in Bloomington, Ind. to Accra, Ghana, his death made news all over.

Yet, for many people who were watching the events unfold, Americans’ reactions to the killing of Osama influenced their opinions of America more than their opinions of his death.

Last week, I arrived back in the West African nation of Ghana to find that all of my Ghanaian friends were fascinated with the idea of Osama’s death. Nearly all of them asked me two questions: how do Americans feel about Osama and how is Obama doing?

These questions highlight the global popularity of the two big O’s and the world’s fascination with these two figures. Their simultaneous reference to one after the other sets the stage for a Star Wars-esque deal off between the good and evil of the world.

These questions also speak to the complex nature of American politics as they are two big questions to tackle. It’s hard to say indefinitely how an entire country could feel about such an event.

Personally, I do not see Osama’s death to be the cause of celebration. Nor do I see another’s death as a reason for partying and fist-bumping Jersey Shore style. Yet, when international news sources broadcasted images and videos of Americans celebrating the death of Osama, they send a message to the world.

This message is one that suggests Americans no longer value life or a fair trial. Again and again my Ghanaian friends asked me why America did not try Osama in court or why people celebrated Osama’s death in such happy ways. I was left speechless.

I have no answer for why Americans choose to celebrate death, but I feel that it speaks to the ways in which Americans reaffirm our sense of nationalism.

By celebrating the success of the U.S. military against Osama, America connected as a nation. However, this connection came at the cost of America’s perception across the world and created many new enemies for the nation.

Osama’s death is meaningless in and of itself because he is not the only person threatening America. And yet, this singular event has had such a profound effect on the ways in which Americans view themselves and how others see America.

­— tmkennel@indiana.edu

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