This weekend brought an end to the life of Usama bin Laden, possibly one of the humans most feared by the US in a *long* time. He founded and was the charismatic recruiter for Al Quaida, a terrorist organization that attacked the US on our own soil and beyond. At the news of his death, there were videos of dancing, singing, whooping-and-hollering celebration in many locations, inside the US and out (mainly US-affiliated bases, embassies, etc. from my understanding). It was as if evil itself had been conquered. Even our President broke into broadcast television to announce the news and lauded the event with a proclamation of "Justice has been done."
As a pacifist and a mama, I'm torn right now. To celebrate the death of a human at the hands of another human is wrong in my eyes. We are all people, whether good or bad. And to celebrate this death when it will surely be followed by a new leader seems preemptive and presumptive. More than that I have to ask why are we celebrating like this? This is a man with many, many horrible deeds on his head, no doubt, and multiple standing criminal charges against him. If he was truly the mastermind behind the attacks on September 11th, 2001, then he has over 3,000 deaths that are his responsibility in that one day. Unfortunately, he will never be brought to trial, so we will never see the evidence for or against his involvement there. I understand that for many people, they have waited for this day since then, and this brought a bit of closure, but let's please not mistake closure for justice. I don't know many of us who teach our children that justice means "an eye for an eye" any more, and the best way to teach is by example. This celebration certainly doesn't teach our children non-violence or respect for life, either.
While I'm confounded by our response to this event, I'm also baffled at the lack of perspective. I must state again that yes, this was a very bad man, but I've heard many compare him to Saddam Hussein or Adolph Hitler lately. How accurate is this? For one thing, he was never a leader of state- in fact, his own state revoked his citizenship years ago; he was a stateless leader of a stateless group. The scale, also, is far from similar. Hitler had the deaths of millions on his shoulders, and Hussein hundreds of thousands. Here in the US, we have a more similar death toll in Iraq and Afghanistan each, and yet we don't hold our leaders or ourselves responsible for those deaths. We loose more humans each year to drugs, poverty, gang violence, suicide, and malnutrition each than how many we have lost to bin Laden. Sixty-six years ago, the suicide of Hitler brought outrage that he would not be held responsible for and face trial for the murders which he instigated, and would therefore he would never face justice. Two days ago, we declared justice for orders of magnitude fewer deaths to be an assassination.
How does one person instill so much fear and hatred in an entire nation? How have we changed so drastically in the time since World War II? Have we become this much more blood-thirsty and violent? Have we this little regard for human life? Is it due to attributes of bin Laden- his skin color, his nationality, or his religion? Is it because he attacked us on our own soil? What causes people to think and behave this way? Whatever it is, it certainly isn't compassion or rationality. It certainly is nothing that I'm proud to see, let alone be a part of. How do I explain this to my son- that even though our nation is acting in this way, it is not OK for him to emulate these sentiments, and that I can not condone these actions? How do I explain this and still teach him to be proud of our country, the principles upon which we were founded, and things we have accomplished? How do I instill in him this nationalism, pride, and patriotism, when I find it so hard to continue those feelings in my own mind?
My father was raised in a country of which he was proud, and he spoke up when he saw it going a way he did not like or approve; he died at a time when we were heading in the right direction and seemed to be getting back on track. He raised me to be proud of this country, and to believe that we could change- he was sure it would by the time my sister and I had grown up. I feel like I've been let down, and like he's been let down. Worst of all, I feel lied to about what a great nation we are. My consolation is the people with whom I surround myself, and hearing voices of reason ring out above the cacophony of negativity. It's still an uphill battle, and there's still a lot of fighting left to do in and for this country before we'll be a shadow of our former self, but there are people willing to fight. We're working together, and finding each other, and slowly we will gain ground. We will because we must. We will because the US needs this change toward humanity, compassion, and reason. We will because the next generation will not be lied to.