Hanna and I woke up this morning to near-ceaseless NPR coverage of Osama Bin Laden’s death during an American military raid on his compund in Pakistan. I have a lot of ill-formed thoughts here, and reading through the blog posts that have gone up over night on the topic is making me rather sick to my stomach so this is not destined to be the most cogent of blog posts. But with all of the media speculation about what this means for the “war on terror” and with the coverage of celebrations of death that seem to be taking place across the United States, I feel compelled to point out
a human being died last night.
Yes, he was a sick and twisted person who was responsible (directly and indirectly) for the suffering of thousands upon thousands of other people.
Kind of like we, as a nation, are responsible for the suffering of thousands upon thousands of people due to the two wars we started ten years ago in retribution for the suffering we held this man responsible for.
And now here we are celebrating death in the streets.
I’m just not comfortable with that.
The first thing my mind presented to me this morning when I heard the news was a memory of hearing, ten years ago this coming October, that the United States had begun bombing Afghanistan in retaliation for 9/11. I was huddled around a campfire on a beach in Oregon among a group of folks with whom, for the past month, I’d been reading about the horrific things human beings do to one another in wartime.
It’s hard to imagine bombing or invasion is the way to solve the pain of loss or to drive away the fear of vulnerability when the first thing that comes to mind is the seige of Sarajevo or the violence of South African apartheid or the war of attrition that is (to this day) taking place between Israel and Palestine.
It’s equally hard for me to imagine that assassinating Osama Bin Laden will bring any sort of political or personal resolution to the violence of the past decade (and beyond).
A human being died last night.
The world that he (and we) created remains. There is still suffering, there is still inequality, there is still anger … there will still be violence.
Adding to that violence will not make us safe.
And the purposeful killing any human being should never lead to dancing in the streets.
UPDATE: My friend eskenosen @ kai ho logos sarx egeneto has put it much more eloquently than I ever could:
I mourn with those who still mourn, after 10 years, the absence of their friends, coworkers, and family members. I understand those who celebrate the death of bin Laden as long-awaited justice.
But I also grieve for our nation, that instead of crying out to God in our shock and horror, we cried for bombs, for guns, for shock and awe. That a human has died, and people sing in the streets.