Tue 3 May 2011
“What do you think of that Osama deal?” a guy passing through Point Reyes Station asked a couple of us in the barbershop Tuesday. I was a bit surprised by how he phrased the question but said the death of Osama bin Laden should over time make the world a safer place.
“It might have been a big deal if it had happened in 2002 or 2003,” the traveler said. “Now it’s a matter of: ‘So bin Laden’s dead, how ’bout those Giants?'”
The other two of us saw the death as more momentous, insisting that bin Laden (at left) was a ruthless fanatic who would have continued to order terrorist attacks were he still around to lead al Qaeda.
However, neither of us thought bin Laden’s death would put an end to all terrorism.
Probably most Americans are relieved that the mastermind of 9/11 has finally been brought to justice. Governments of several Muslim countries have also expressed approval of the raid that killed him. The the man on the street in much of the Muslim world, however, is as indifferent as the traveler in the barbershop to bin Laden’s demise.
In the Middle East, bin Laden and al Qaeda have been overshadowed by rebellions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria. Bin Laden had become a relic from a bygone era.
So the stranger was unquestionably right about one thing: during the 40 minutes that justice was catching up with Osama bin Laden, billions of other people were going about their lives as always. To most people, change is inevitable except from a vending machine.
On my hillside, Sunday was the start of the thistle-pulling season, but thanks to a fortnight of prickly eradication a year ago, there are far fewer thistles in my field this year. Little did my girlfriend Lynn and I know that as we labored, President Obama was preparing to announce that the biggest prick of all had been eradicated halfway around the world in an Abbottabad, Pakistan, mansion.
He was a meglomaniac who liked to blow things up and who had inherited millions of dollars by the time he was 14. Despite advocating asceticism for others, Osama bin Laden was found living in luxury with three wives, a stash of pornographic magazines and videos in his bedroom, and hundreds of marijuana plants growing in rows among cabbages and potatoes just outside his walls.
He died when shot in the eye and chest during an incredibly precise, 40-minute raid by Navy SEALs. (If you’ve ever wondered about the acronym, it stands for Sea, Air, and Land Navy Special Warfare Unit.)
When I published The Point Reyes Light, I editorialized in favor of the US going after bin Laden in Afghanistan and against our going after Saddam Hussein in Iraq. During the buildup to the Iraq War, I tried to warn then-President George W. Bush, but did he listen? Noooo. Presidents are notorious for ignoring small-town editors, and as I predicted, we ended up in a war from which we still cannot extricate ourselves.
“You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing — after they have tried everything else.” — Winston Churchill
Eradicating thistles was a bit tricky Sunday because many were hidden by unusually tall grass, the result of a wet winter. Here a fawn and a doe are barely visible as they graze below my deck.
Far from the turmoil in the Middle East, evenings around my cabin are still filled with foxes, raccoons, and the occasional possum. Here a gray fox carefully approaches a raccoon eating peanuts outside my kitchen door. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)
“I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.” — Groucho Marx
The raccoon isn’t happy t0 have the fox share its dinner, but it would rather go on eating than waste time fighting over the bounty. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)
Watching two competing species learn to accommodate each other started me musing. Bin Laden with all his money and religious fanaticism was less civilized than a pair of wild animals. Merely attending a mosque hadn’t made him a true Muslim any more than standing in a garage would have made him a car.
Caught by surprise in Inverness Park. On Monday I stopped by Perry’s Delicatessen to buy a couple of pouches of Captain Black pipe tobacco.
“I always buy it here rather than over the hill because I want to patronize a local merchant,” I told owner Dan Thompson, only to have him correct my pronunciation. “You pat-row-nize merchants,” he said. “You don’t pay-trow-nize them.”
Regularly buying from a merchant is obviously different from condescending to him, but it had never before occurred to me that the pronunciation changed with the meaning. Might the difference be a matter of British versus American English? One point for the deli owner, as well as West Marin wildlife. Zero for bin Laden, as well as thistles.