I wrote the following post six months ago, and left it in my drafts to allow some of the press to die down around the death of Osama Bin Laden. Since then, many dictators have been usurped by rebel forces. In a rare display of self-restraint, I have looked at it several times, asking myself if I had this viewpoint in a passionate reaction or if it truly was the way I feel. I rue the day when world politics are no longer this personal for me.
Ok, I'll admit it. I'm feeling guilty. The last two days have been strange, a kind of strange I haven't felt for nearly 10 years.
The US finally found Osama Bin Laden and killed him. That's the simple version. The more complicated version is that there are different truths to be found in that statement. OBL was executed. Assassinated. Neutralized. Depending on what symbols an American associates to OBL, their opinion of what happened Sunday changes. Most of the people I have personally talked to are more than just a little torn over the situation, as am I.
A few folks I know rejoiced when hearing the news. They heard that we have achieved a goal as a country and finally eradicated a terrorist mastermind. They have celebrated victory over OBL. That's the overwhelming response on Facebook this week. Go America! We did it! God bless America!
I'm not sure this is such a good thing. It's difficult for a young impressionable person to disagree with the cries of victory. Just like my generation had institutions like TV media to tell us what is socially acceptable, the millenial generation has institutions like Facebook to tell them how to react to shocking news. I've been told in the last two days that I would celebrate if I lost a loved one on 9/11, that OBL's death is worth celebrating and that I'm one of very few who feel otherwise. If I were an impressionable teen, that might be damaging to my confidence that what I think is right - for me.
All of us lost something on 9/11. We felt the loss as a people, not individuals. We lost security, freedom, and thousands of lives. We banded together and gave blood, made friends, grieved. What we felt then was compassion.
I learned about compassion from my grandmother. She had plenty of reasons to be angry in her life, and even a few opportunities to seek vengeance. She used these experiences to teach us compassion and respect for life, but even more important - integrity.
I have little doubt that OBL deserved to be brought to justice. Now, he'll have to answer for his crimes to his maker, not a judge. I'm ok with that. I'm also ok that our troops sent him there. There are casualties in war and he was not innocent. What I have a problem with is the celebration of vengeance. We cared deeply about the wounds of 9/11 because they were felt so far away, but for me - justice has to be equal. Why do we spend 10 years chasing after the death of a terrorist leader when we let Pol Pot get away with the genocide of 1.5 million Cambodians? Does one OBL equal 3000 souls lost to 9/11?
I'm uncomfortable with intolerance. Grandma also taught me to be tolerant, especially of those who hurt me, because they needed more from humanity. In her eyes, God was the ultimate judge of human behavior, and God would rather have a sinner turn toward the light and live than turn away and die (or be killed). If indeed we are shepherds, shouldn't we tend to this need?
I'm sad in any case, that death would be celebrated as if it were the best news on Earth. And saddened more so that Facebook is the morality barometer for the people making decisions around here. Sounds like groupthink to me. Vengeance should always be grieved, because it is a waste. The person who causes you pain will never feel it the way you do. Vengeance isn't the opposite of compassion, just the embodiment of hate.