Osama's Ghost on Streets of America

By Vishavjit Singh. Cross-posted from Sikhtoons.

The article below was rejected by a diverse array of news outlets. One explained "there is not enough of a new story here." A film-maker acquaintance shared similar struggle pitching an idea along the theme of this article sometime ago. Potential funders responded with "Racism against Sikhs and the use of the 'O' word is so cliched and overdone." Apparently we Sikhs need to find ourselves being targeted in innovative ways for being news worthy! So here is the same old news for you. If it moves you, share it, comment on it, share your experience, make it your news.

Osama Bin Laden has been dead for over 3 years.

But his ghost lives on and quite responsive to news events of jihadi flavor.

As our new streams fill with the advance and images of ISIS in Iraq, the ingrained countenance of the Saudi who personified hate at its worst in his living days finds outlets in the most unlikely of places.

Not in some cave Afghanistan, or in a villa in Pakistan but roaming freely on the streets of America. It has been spotted all over the country from New York to California, red to blue states, schools to wide open streets. Not some phantom image floating through our three dimensional realm. But an apparition coursing through the hearts and minds of many across America taking control of their faculties. Young and old, men and women, black, hispanic and white all seem to be prone to this fanatical creature.

At the mere spotting of a turban and beard the name 'Osama' gets invoked time and again.

I have been eyewitness to this strange phenomenon on countless occasions. The latest spotting happened this recently as I was exiting a subway station near Times Square in New York City. I found myself distracted by two well-built olive skinned men getting dressed as Autobots from the Transformers movie. Then I heard the invocation 'Osama' from behind me. I turned back to see who had spotted the ghost but lost track of the sound. My attention went back to the costume players. Being a cosplayer myself I did a u-turn to talk to the two men. I asked them about the occasion to dress as transformers. One answered for a party. The other one had a partial mask on his face. But anger was covering his entire face. He had rather blow me off than engage in a conversation. I walked away. Then it occurred to me the source of Osama's ghost. The sour face man had been transformed into a rageful character at the mere spotting of my turquoise turban and a double helix beard.

Two days later a not so courageous man beckoned from the comfort of his car, "Can I borrow your towel for a few minutes?" and then sped off.

Weeks earlier as I turned a street corner in Harlem passing by a group of high school kids I heard the word 'Osama' again. I turned around and addressed the culprit if he really thought I was the world's most wanted man risen from the dead. He denied invoking the 'O' word. I mentioned at least have the courage to stand by your words. We ended up engaging in a conversation of what an American looks like. The boy did exhibit the decency to apologize for his transgression.

Family and friends have shared similar stories from across the four corners of our nation.

It's time we hunt down the ghost of Osama Bin Laden with the same focus and intensity as we did with the man in flesh and bones. Honestly I would like to be part of the elite force that gets to slay this ghost for good.

Armed with our intelligence assets, fortitude, oath to defend our values I would like to swoop in on the hateful ghost catching it unaware taking one conclusive mortal aim.

But alas this creature is not a singular target. It feasts on a potpourri of ignorance, insecurity, anxiety, fear and bigotry. It jumps from one body to another. Its power lies in its omnipresence.

Maybe we just have to live with this unwelcome guest. Eventually time might strangle this lifeless presence.


But there is one powerful weapon in our war chest that has the potential to extricate this intruder from our midst. Our imagination with its progeny of freshly conceived images. Over three years ago my never ending encounters with Osama's ghost and a Hollywood rendition of a comic superhero inspired an illustration of a turbaned and bearded Captain America ready to fight intolerance.

A year later the illustration took a life of its own in the three dimensional world with me donning the Captain America uniform at the behest of a Brazilian American photographer. I ventured out on the streets of New York resplendent in my red, white and blue costume, turban, sparsely populated spiral beard, glasses and my skinny frame.

The image was jarring to my own sense of self. It was something I would not even dare dream until that point. Therein lays the power of our imagination to slay demons residing in our gray matter.

So let's gather our wits, meticulously detail our battle plans, armed to the hilt with humor. Then we fly in stealth mode and capture hearts and minds of Americans leaving no room for Osama's ghost.

A gargantuan and exhaustive task indeed but necessary for our mental security.

Vishavjit Singh is the nation's first and only turbaned/bearded editorial cartoonist. He got his spark for cartooning following the upheaval filled days after 9/11. He brings turbanful characters to life on the 2-D pages of his computer aided by his right indexed finger on a touchpad. His works can be consumed at Sikhtoons.com.

angry archive