Don’t you just hate these slow news weeks? On Sunday night, President Barack Obama announced that the world’s most wanted man had been killed. The result of a risky raid involving 79 American commandos, it was also one of the very few conceivable events monumental enough to grab the spotlight from what had been the week’s reigning Big News: the flawless, glitzy, fantastically behatted nuptials of Kate Middleton and Prince William.
For months, a micro-economy befitting a small country had been built up for the express purpose of producing this one wedding — not only caterers and dressmakers and florists but also pundits, paparazzi, tchotchke makers, and more, resulting in the most ungapatchka’d affair in modern memory.
The sensory gorge was so intense that even the most hardened news watchers could be forgiven for not giving adequate attention to last week’s other story of marital commitment: the April 27 reconciliation, after four years of bickering, between rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah. But it did happen. Within the space of five days, the world experienced three life-changing rituals:
Two weddings and a funeral.
At first blush, the three events seemed unrelated. Sure, there are threads of connection between the status of Palestinians and the story of Osama bin Laden’s life, but these are broad historical lines — not specific points of intersection between last week’s two specific plot points. (I’m also sure one of bin Laden’s relatives once shopped at Harrods.)
But then I noticed something in a column written by Leon Wieseltier, the literary editor of The New Republic, who joined revelers in Lafayette Park in Washington, DC, on the night that bin Laden’s death was broadcast.
“I was surprised, and delighted in a dark way, to discover that the wound of September 11 was still so fresh, not least for people who were young when the attack occurred: the pressures of American materialism, and of the manic American way of life, upon American collective memory are immense, and not even the two wars that we are fighting abroad, both of them legacies of September 11, seem to have focused American attention for very long on the principles of our conflict with medievalist tyranny,” wrote Wieseltier.
But, he continued, “[t]he kids last night were not bloodthirsty. They were merely aware that we have enemies. There was nothing awry with their feeling that the enemy of their country was their enemy, too.”
The kids, it turns out, are not only all right. They may even — despite all the incessant scolding about the dumbing-down of our youth — be wise.
This made me think back to Kate and William. Beneath her layers of lace and Victorian corsetry and his regal golden pate are two remarkably poised and seemingly well-adjusted 20-somethings. Looking at them in this light, I finally started to understand the hoopla surrounding the affair. That these two might actually rescue this crazy family from a recent history worthy of Greek myth — and thereby save the centuries-old institution of British monarchy from becoming a relic barely worthy of the hat jokes — all of a sudden seems surprisingly…believable.
It’s certainly easier to believe in than last week’s other coupling, between Hamas’ Ismail Haniyeh and Fatah’s Mahmoud Abbas — two middle-aged men who arguably married each other to avoid passing the torch to a new generation of Palestinian leaders. On May 2, Hamas released a noxious statement decrying bin Laden’s killing, while Abbas’ Palestinian Authority applauded it — pitting the honeymooners against each other barely six days after tying the knot.
Ah, well. Thankfully, as far as I know, Kate and William are still getting along.
And even if they split up, bin Laden will, blessedly, still be dead — and we’ll all still be wisely grateful.
Alana Newhouse, editor-in-chief of Tablet magazine, is joining Andrew Silow-Carroll on this page while he recuperates from his “procedure.”