“He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster.” –Friedrich Nietzsche
Again, I planned to write about something different today. And I still might. But what was going to be a nice, quiet day off before my week begins started with indignation.
I rolled over and checked my phone after hearing a text message arrive. It was an unknown number from my home area code. Because my brothers are in flux and their numbers could very well change, I immediately read it. I will forever regret that I did. The message told me to flip open and read the message inside my phone. This happens when the message is more than 160 characters, so I assumed it was just a long text. It also happens when I receive a photo, which I forgot.
I opened my phone to see a beaten, bloody face of Osama bin Laden and the caption, “Say hi to Allah.” I was sickened. I was mad. I was horrified. This is something I would have, and will continue to, go out of my way not to see. This is what bothered me so much last night as I watched the news. This is something I should not have had to see. This is something I will never un-see.
I texted back that I didn’t know who the sender was, but that this was disgusting and offensive, all of which was true. The response was that they typed a wrong number. I let my fury get the better of me and typed back that they should be proud to have sunk to bin Laden’s sadistic level. I now feel bad about letting my anger take over. I was about to follow that with a “but…” statement, but there is no but. I feel bad. There is no explanation of my thoughts or feelings that justifies acting rashly in anger.
“Anger is a killing thing: it kills the man who angers, for each rage leaves him less than he had been before – it takes something from him.” –Louis L’Armour
And that is the whole point. We are cheering and celebrating more death. We are happy that yet another life has been taken because of bin Laden’s hatred. The United States is partying in honor of murder. Our anger is animalizing. It sinks us below justice to vengeance. I do sympathize with the fact that there are still families mourning lost loved ones. There is justifiable outrage over the destruction that bin Laden caused. However, there is a gross baseness, an indignity to the gloating, the joy over his death. Call it self-righteousness, call it hypocrisy, call it illogical, but I feel a distinction between a resignation that this killing needed to happen, acceptance of it, and the elation and revelry filling the midday news. I am disappointed that we are treating his death not as closure, but as fodder for jokes.
And this disappointment, this unease, is what has been churning inside me. But my anger was less with my unknown texter’s callousness. It was not with their racist caption or macabre glee. It was their carelessness. Perhaps it is an emotional dehumanization that comes with texting. Perhaps it is because they could not see a person’s face as they read it or hear their voice. Perhaps it is a boldness that comes with anonymity, hiding behind phone lines and screens. Perhaps they are just distasteful and could not care less if they said this out loud too. I was mad because this all happened with so little care, so little thought for the consequences.
What I saw this morning I can’t take back. I don’t get back that time before I saw that bloody face. I don’t get to return to a morning where I didn’t have physical proof of the depravity of humanity. I don’t get to reclaim my mind. I did not want to see and read that. I did not choose to indulge the darkness that others are enjoying. It was forced upon me. I was pulled into this by someone who didn’t care enough to get the right number before passing on a battered corpse’s photo. They didn’t think enough before writing an offensive, anti-Muslim message to type the right number. They didn’t care. They changed me. I am different now. I am haunted. I am jaded. My day is ruined and I can’t shake the dirty feeling that photo rooted in me. And this sender didn’t care. That indifference, that indiscretion, that general disregard for the consequences of their actions– that, that is why I am angry today.
“What I want to do and what I do are two separate things. If we all went around doing what we wanted all the time, there’d be chaos.” —Simon Birch