A Complex Victory

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“Remember that all through history, there have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they seem invincible.  But in the end, they always fall.  Always.”  –Mahatma Ghandi

I had planned to write about something else tonight.  Then life happened.  While talking on the phone with my dad, the news cut in with the announcement that Osama bin Laden is dead.  For a country that has feared that name alone for nearly a decade, a name that is synonymous with death and destruction, this is huge news.  This is the only news. 

I think about the gravity of this revelation.  The man we have hunted, have feared, have loathed since September 11th, 2001, is gone.  He is no more.  His body is still, his life ended.  It is still far too early to tell what the implications of this will be.  Is the world now a safer place?  Did we crush the head of the terrorist beast that has stalked us?  Did we simply anger it?  No one has answers to these questions yet.

I am, rather unbelievably, conflicted about this news.  The moment I read the headline flashing on my television, I felt a jolt of disbelief.  I remember that morning, remember the planes, remember the rubble and tears and flags.  I remember the fear, the hope, the patriotism, and the thirst for blood.  I remember vividly the day that made Osama bin Laden a household name. 

“The world needs anger.  The world often continues to allow evil because it isn’t angry enough.”  –Bede Jarrett

A piece of me is glad, relieved to hear that he is dead.  I feel a little safer, a little calmer.  I am not naive and know that there are still plenty of people out there who hate me because I am an American, because I am white, because I am me.  This is not the end of the story.  But tonight, as I go to sleep, I will know that there is one less monster in my closet, one less nightmare hiding under the bed.  This is not an innocent man, bullied by the big kid on the block.  This is a murderer, gone.  He terrorized the world, made life unbearable for average, innocent people.  He preached hate and lived violence.  His crimes warranted punishment. 

We were wounded, blindsided.  We wanted justice, and were willing to settle for revenge.  In all honesty, they may be one in the same.  We wanted blood for blood, death for death.  And I am not necessarily saying we were wrong.  Tonight’s news may very well be a reprieve for countless lives.  This may mean freedom for the masses.  This may have been necessary and inevitable.

“Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime.”  –Ernest Hemmingway

All of that being said, I feel a deep, nagging sadness as I watch the news.  I do not think that we were necessarily wrong.  As I said, I do feel that this was necessary, that I am now safer, if only in my mind.  However, the human part of me, the divinity within me, the heart of God calling to me, is saddened. 

I watched as crowds gathered in front of the White House and cheered.  They threw streamers, chanted, and took photos.  They celebrated.  And perhaps the joy is justified, but a man is dead.  Another person was forced to end a life.  No, bin Laden himself had no qualms about killing.  Yes, he was a monster.  But a tiny little part of me also knows that he was once a baby, a son.  He was indoctrinated, just like we all are.  He made choices, just like we all do.  He allowed a hatred to manifest in ways that we all do not.  But he was a person, a life now ended.  I have no problem with people resting easier, with a danger neutralized.  I do, however, sit uneasy in the celebration of death.  I do not know that we should have a party over the end of a life.

I feel a tearing, a pull between knowing the bigger story and seeing the bigger picture.  Justice.  Revenge.  Protection.  Necessity.  It was all of those things.  I can’t help but feel, though, that relief and jubilee are not necessarily the same.  Death and destruction are still tragedy.  The man who killed him did not deserve to be a hero in that way, deserve to have that job thrust upon him.  Whatever had to happen, I feel a deep sadness that we rejoice in murder.  That is what bin Laden did.  We did not deserve the attacks he rallied terrorists behind.  However, we also do not deserve to be a people who celebrate death, dance through destruction and revel in ruins.

“I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary.  The evil it does is permanent.”  –Mahatma Ghandi

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