Monday, May 02, 2011

Vengeance is served: Osama bin Laden is dead

Not sad that Osama bin Laden is dead, but neither do I feel any joy. Mostly I feel kind of detached, like I'm watching this unfold, alone, from a great distance.

I keep hearing people talk about this event as justice served. But this wasn't justice. It was vengeance. There's a difference. Not to say it's necessarily a bad thing that 9/11 has now been symbolically avenged. And to the extent that it brings some sense of closure to the families of the dead, both on 9/11 and throughout all the invasions and current occupations that followed, I guess that's a good thing. Not so sure it's a cause for great celebration though.

I had dozed off last night watching dumb teevee. Woke up and heard the newsman say bin Laden is dead. Then they broke to commercial and sleep took me again. When I woke up this morning and saw the dancing in the streets my first reaction was surprise, followed closely by discomfort.

I know everyone processes emotional events like this differently, but as a life long anti-war and anti-death penalty activist, I found the cheering of death, even of such a vile person as bin Laden, to be somehow ugly and inappropriate. But then, in cruising the internets, I was reminded that these were mostly college kids in the streets. The tragedy of 9/11 was the defining moment of their generation and within their limited historical experience, I can understand how this would feel like a victory to be celebrated, even if I don't share their relief.

In contrast, I read that when the active duty troops heard the announcement, they reacted with silence. I would guess many were thinking what one soldier told a reporter.
"OK, he's dead," he said. "Can we go home?"
Sadly, the answer is likely to be no and as long as war and death continue, the victory belongs to bin Laden. Destruction and chaos were his express desire and these things won't end with his death. Neither victory or justice can be claimed until they do. When our world leaders lay down their arms against each other and agree to mutually deploy our forces in a battle against the real enemies on this planet -- climate change, poverty, sickness and hunger -- then will I celebrate with champagne in the streets.

I expect it will be a long wait. So for now, think I'll just engage in some quiet reflection and send my silent thanks to those troops who not only won't be coming home today but will also be facing increased danger from bin Laden's remaining loyalists. May the God of their choice protect them from harm.

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