Monday, May 2, 2011

osama bin laden is dead.

Last night, President Barack Obama announced that Osama bin Laden has been killed. There were tons of reactions, and I'm sure I'm not delivering this news to you for the first time. But I did think it interesting when one of my Facebook friends put up the famous Gandhi quotation, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." In the midst of an almost universal (at least, as far as the media I was consuming) celebration, I was slapped back to reality by an old idea that I definitely believe in. And that's when I realized that I was processing this on many different levels. And I think that it's important that I get these levels down, mostly for myself, if not for other people, maybe to think about the fact that we probably all are doing this as well. These reactions might not be the same as yours, or some of them might, but I think it's mainly just an exercise for myself.

The first thing that I felt was pride. I think I felt this mostly as an American. We undertook this task almost ten years ago, to kill the man who was responsible for this great, national pain. And we did it! Team America: World Police threw a party in my head!

Then, I felt pride as a liberal, or more specifically, as a Democrat: Barack Obama will be reelected! He did in 2 years what George W. Bush couldn't do in 8! God, I'm so happy!

Then it went back to unified American and I was reminded of the pain we suffered on 9/11 and I thought of people like this and I realized that this day was so much bigger than one side of the political equation. It was a proud moment and I was happy to bask in that joy of a man being killed.

Then I saw my friend's Facebook post and I realized that I was overjoyed about the death of another person. I asked if we could remember a time when so many people were so happy over the death of a person? I heard Hitler, but I said we couldn't remember that - this is fresh. This is here and now. And we're all celebrating. It felt weird for a semi-pacifist, for a liberal who's not a huge fan of the Army or death or war or any of those things to be reveling in the fact that someone had died.

And then, finally, I tried to process this is a philosophical way: I am happy he's dead. Some of the families who need it have closure now. I believe in Gandhi's words. I really do. I think war is never rarely the answer, and I think that when you take revenge, all you're doing is extending a vicious cycle. But I'm older now than I was yesterday, and thankfully that will always be the case. And I think the single thing that growing older has taught me is that things are not black and white. (A black and white statement if there ever was one, eh?) There are shades of grey. And Osama bin Laden, despite being a human being, deserved to die. I know that's a heavy label to throw around, but I'm pretty sure I'm comfortable with it.

I don't think we should make exceptions to the rules every time we feel we've been slighted. I think rules are good things, and I don't believe in anarchy. I love my government and I love my country. If I was drafted, even though I'm not a fan of the Army, I would go and fight, even if I thought the war was idealistically wrong. I think there are such things as good and bad. I think that, for the most part, we've been on the side of good. And I think, for the most part, killing someone is bad. But I think that this was a good thing. I think that this was something that was deserved.

Most of all, at the end of the night, I felt optimistic for the future. I'm a pretty optimistic guy for the most part, but last night, I felt hope in a way that I hadn't for a long, long time. There was a sliver of my brain that said it was wrong to feel that way over a man's death. But the larger part of me said, it's not about his death. It's about the feeling that people like this embodied. If that's wrong, if that leads me down the path to the dark side, then I have to think that the sides are closer than anyone could ever imagine.

1 comment:

Melinda C said...

It's hard for me to believe that his death happened when it did. Why now? Why not 10 years ago...when his death was only just about 3,000 people?

And while I agree that Osama Bin Laden should die, as I also agree that serial killers should die...it's hard to determine whether all the loss of life to end his was worth it in the end. Ya know?

The 3,000 people (mostly Americans) that died on 9/11 - and everyone else who has died or fought and nearly died or been wounded physically and mentally by war...you know, is it worth all that?

Fighting terrorism continues to be a losing battle. As the country in the world with the biggest guns and most oppressive foreign policies - terrorism will haunt us because it's part of reaping what we sow. We sow oppression and terror through force across the globe when it suits our purposes.

As American people we have control over how our country is perceived in the world and what terror we wield across the globe. And if we continue to turn a blind eye to what causes terrorism in the first place then we lose every time. Even when we win. Even when the bad guy dies.

And like a typical movie bad guy, he's really just a fall guy - a figure head like the CEO of a greedy corporation. Terrorism and Corporate greed are hundred headed hydras. Cut one down and two grow up in it's path.

People have been posting this quote sporadically on FB today: "I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sometimes I do celebrate death - when it feels like justice has been served. But I don't REALLY feel like rejoicing. This doesn't really feel like justice. I feel sad and skeptical and sad that I'm skeptical and I'm pretty sure the scales don't weigh out in the end.

I think there is more grey in the world than black and white, and I think OBL's death falls into that grey area for me.