I’ve gotten some powerful comments from familiar and unfamiliar sources in response to yesterday’s post about people rejoicing at the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death:
Here’s Jack Crane:
When I heard Osama bin Laden had been killed, one of my first images was of a very brief meeting I had in 2003 with an Investment Banker on Chicago’s South Side. I don’t recall his name, but I vividly remember the sudden change in his facial expression. We quickly discovered we were native Bostonians and had a good laugh or two about the home front. He mentioned he had worked for the investment banking firm Sandler O’Neill for many years prior to his current stint for Countrywide in California. I shared with him that I had just met an investment banker from Sandler O’Neill, who had shared with me that many of his partners had been killed in the twin towers on 9/11/01. Suddenly the happy go lucky Bostonian became very somber, almost ashen. He knew the Sandler O’Neill partner well, and like him, was out of town on business when Osama bin Laden’s minions committed their heinous crime. In fact, he was so shook by the disaster that he couldn’t work in NYC anymore, as the images of burning colleagues jumping from their windows was simply too horrifying to face each day on Wall Street. So, he took his family and fled to California to see if it was possible to start any kind of semblance of a new life. I will not forget the shadow of a man who left my office that day.
Is he celebrating bin Laden’s death? Of course, I have no idea. When one loses so many colleagues and loved ones in such a horrible way, can you really celebrate the death of another? I guess I picture him being brought back to that terrible day when his friends were burned alive, wrestling perhaps with some guilt that he was not there to help his buddies find a way out of the nightmare. Somehow, I doubt he cares much about bin Laden at all.
And how do I explain to my grandkids that when somebody commits murder it is OK to kill him, his son and wife in the name of justice? In fact, we train our “very best” soldiers to kill with precision in these cases. Yes Isaac, those are our very best killers, highly trained, highly skilled. How do I explain to them also that we invaded Iraq and Afghanistan, killing thousands upon thousands of innocent civilians, in the name of justice for the attacks on 9/11/01?
In the spirit of Thich Nhat Hahn, I had hoped we could have captured Osama bin Laden, and forced to him meet with each family member individually who lost a husband, wife, daughter, son, mom, dad etc., one day at a time, to explain to them his justification for murdering their loved ones. This process would last for many years of course, but I personally do not think he would last a month.
Here’s Paul Tamburello:
The subject of your post, minus the excellent and illuminating quotes, has been the subject of my own thoughts and conversations with friends. What’s the difference between the videos and photos of some in the Arab world cheering at the spectacle of the collapsing towers and today’s videos and photos of Americans behaving the same with the news of Osama bin Laden’s assassination? Cheering death is a conundrum not easily resolved. Death is not a solution, only a result. We’re no closer to a solution to peace and understanding than we were ten years ago. I fear that we’re part of the problem for not finding and supporting the kinds of politicians who have the courage to unite populations by listening, mediating and finding the third path. Here and abroad, national, regional, and religious self interest and monetary interests rule today. In my opinion, those are mightier adversaries than Osama bin Laden.
Here’s David Russell:
I like what you have to say here, Jeff. I’m glad that’s he’s gone but do not rejoice in his death either. It felt weird to me all the cheering, as though a touchdown had just been scored in an important game. I wish that it was so simple; we have got to know that it is not. “By any means necessary” is a seductive slogan, but it is truly a dangerous one. We’ve got to fear the righteous certainty that comes with believing that because we are right we can do anything to advance that cause. I hope that we are wiser. Especially those of us who have lived some decades of adulthood must know that the world is not just good guys and bad guys. Thank you for having the presence of mind and perhaps courage to speak skeptically.
And here’s my mom:
I woke up, turned on the TV and saw the program celebrating the celebration. I had been asleep. I was horrified. I was 8 when Hitler died. I remember how happy I was. Mostly, I remember the celebration when World War ll was over. We celebrated an end to killing each other. We danced. We sang. We hugged each other.
Since then I’ve learned about demonizing someone. It wasn’t only Hitler just like it wasn’t only Bin Laden. It was also what our foreign policy was, how President Bush thought. how our country has behaved that has caused so much suffering to others.
When all of us Americans become aware of the negative consequences of what we do, then those who lost someone can have closure. We cannot change others. We can change ourselves. When we understand, those who lost someone they loved can begin changing us into a more peaceful country.