“Osama Don’t Surf”. Some time back, T-shirts and singlets with this slogan was one of Bali’s iconic souvenir items, selling faster than cold Bintangs served by hot babes. Who was the creative genius? Kudos. But a lot of non-surfers didn’t get it. One columnist in one of Indonesia’s English language newspapers misinterpreted the slogan, thinking that the Balinese were telling Bin Laden to stay away from Bali (as in Osama, don’t you dare surf!), that he wouldn’t be a welcome student at a Kuta surf school. Another columnist scolded the T-shirt printers for their bad grammar. “It should be Osama doesn’t surf,” he said. He added, “And why should Osama surf? He grew up and lives in the desert.”
Now Osama is dead, killed by US troops, and he ain’t ever going to surf. But if what he believed is true, he’s going to be too busy with his hundred virgins to care.
Surfers, of course, got the slogan’s meaning at once. That is, if Osama did in fact surf, peace and love and the search for the perfect empty wave would have infused his heart, and he wouldn’t have been blowing up innocent people. He wouldn’t have had to die in order to find paradise. Why, he could have found it in Bali. With his rugged looks and that beard to drool for (or into, as the case may be), he could have enjoyed, in the here and now, his hundred virgins, at least of the night club variety.
Perhaps we’ll see a new edition of t-shirts hitting the mom-and-pop souvenir stands.
Me personally, I’m not celebrating. If anything, his death is going to make surfing around the world just little bit more risky, at least for awhile. In Bali it might be okay to cheer the news, because a lot of Balinese would feel the same (their island bombed twice by Laden’s co-ideologues), but I’d be a lot more circumspect in Java, Lombok, and Sumbawa.