Sunday, May 1, 2011

On the Advent of the Death of Osama Bin Laden

Osama bin Laden is dead. Apparently we found a way to kill him. Everyone on Facebook is celebrating- a collective sigh of relief, no doubt, for the death of one who caused the deaths of thousands. There can be no doubt that bin Laden posed a collective threat to Americans and Muslims alike. The formation and support of a radical branch of Islam that supports terrorism and martyrdom as part of the religion makes him what ol 'W' would refer to as an "evil doer." A cold-blooded murderer. The face that launched a thousand bombs. And yet, celebrating his death still seems extremely wrong to me.

I don't believe in the death penalty because I believe that there's always more to someone than an action, or a professed belief. As evil as he was, as Saddam was, there were still, most likely, good parts to them. Because that's what it means to be human. It means that there's a substantial amount of both light and dark. He was a father and he was someone's child, someone's brother. And regardless of his substantial crimes, he could not have been utterly full of hate all the time. No doubt he played games and laughed and did kind things for people he lived amongst.

If it seems like I am being too soft on such a murderous criminal, I am not. I just think the act of killing requires a black and white thinking that is the fundamental problem in our society today, and, I should mention, the very same problem that the man is himself guilty of. It is because he was able to see all Americans as evildoers that he was able to plan and carry out a plot to kill thousands of us. We know we are not all evildoers, but this continued focus on bin Laden = BAD America= GOOD is a lie. He was not all evil and we are not all good. The reason that he despised us in the first place is because he is a crazy person, but also because he saw America's hands in the Middle East these past thirty years, saw first hand the death and destruction we have caused, and hated us for it. Attributed it to our lack of God. The very things we hate in him, he hated in us first, until it becomes a projection upon a projection. The things we hate about Osama- his self-righteousness, his violence, his ruthlessness, his hatred of America- are the very things that he hated about us: our self-righteousness, our violence, our ruthlessness, our hatred of all things Islam. And who is right? NO ONE. Because when you hate people, you cease to see them as people and in that moment, you are ALWAYS wrong.

Killing him will be seen as a win. For Obama and for the "war on terror." And I hope it does protect people and prevent more death and destruction. I really hope it does. But it is not a celebration. It is a continuance of the destructive patterns of violence and hatred that perpetuate our country and our world today. Death for death, a life to pay for lives (which of course, it never can), killing to "stop" killing. I worry that it makes him a martyr to his followers; that there will be fallout for this action that will result in more death and more revenge and more "justice" and that more people will die, whether our own or theirs. I worry that, far from being the final chapter in a tragedy, that this is merely another plot development in an ever-deepening saga of despair. I truly hope, like Obama said in his speech, that it brings our divided country together, that it heals the thousands of Muslims who have suffered from bin Laden's hate, that it helps to bring closure to those who lost so much on that day in 2001, to those who have continued to die as a result of it ever since. I hope for these things, but my heart is heavy because I do not think it will really accomplish any of those things.

And so, rather than celebrate his death as a victory for our side, I view his passing with increasing solemnity. He could never have won this fight, but neither can we, as long as we continue down this path. Death is always a loss. May this be the last.