It took less than 24 hours last week for a momentous occasion in American history to be ruined by politics as Osama Bin Laden’s death moved from a victory for the nation to a petty squabble between political parties.
Who gets the credit? Who gets to say, “Hey, I was responsible for Bin Laden’s death”? Who can claim, “Without me, Bin Laden would still be alive”?
It was distressing to watch politicians use a potentially unifying event to deepen the line between parties. Maybe I’m young and naïve, but I thought the reaction to the downfall of a well-known symbol of terrorism would be bipartisan. The fact that I was completely mistaken demonstrates how divided this nation is.
Twitter illustrated the way reactions quickly became polarized.
Starting around 10:30 p.m. Sunday, I watched tweets scroll by: "God bless America," "USA! USA!" and "Justice has been served!"
Around midnight, the nature of the feed began to change. A political war erupted all over Twitter. Republicans wanted Bush to get the credit. Democrats gave Obama all the credit.
I started seeing tweets from Democrats: "If anyone reading this is at the White House right now, please find the dude holding the 'Bush/Cheney' sign and slap him in his fat face."
Comments from Republicans were equally self-serving: "The reason we killed Osama: Bush and Cheney. Sad to see Obama get all of the credit when he wants to cut military spending and withdraw troops."
And, "Had Obama and the Democrats had their way many months ago, Osama would still be alive. Thank you GW!" referring to former President George W. Bush.
The way party affiliations shifted the focus of the conversation was disturbing. Americans could not come together as a unified nation for more than an hour or two.
Everyone seemed to have forgotten the point.
Public enemy number No. 1 was dead. The man who bragged about killing thousands of Americans was dead. One of the most infamous faces of terrorism was dead. The mastermind behind the September 11 attacks was dead, and we were fighting over who should be praised for it.
No wonder a large segment of my generation is disillusioned with politics. No wonder many of us don’t want to vote.
Sadly, tweets like this one were scarce: "It doesn't matter what side you're on. Tonight we're all the same, Americans."
I've seen many issues sharply divided by political affiliation, but none have made me as angry as the reaction to Bin Laden's death. This should not have been a party issue.
The weight of September 11 had a powerful, emotional impact on Americans. Now, justice has been served.
When we react to this historic event with spiteful bickering, we do nothing but trivialize it.
This time, we needed to put politics aside.
Andrea Braxton is a sophomore magazine journalism major at MU, and she covers the MU administration beat for the Columbia Missourian.