You may consider me either sin personified or a saint. I don’t believe I am truly the former, and I am certain I am not the latter.
I am to put it quite bluntly, caught between these two images. I have been for several years.
We were watching the usual Sunday night fare on the TV when suddenly it was interrupted with “breaking news”. We sat momentarily queasy as we wondered what terrible thing might have befallen the world.
We learned, as did everyone, that Osama Bin Laden had been killed in a commando raid on a compound in Pakistan.
My first reaction was one of relief that nothing horrifying had occurred in the world.
But then, I didn’t know quite what to feel.
I have always been struck by the fact that my first reaction to a photograph of Bin Laden is that he reminds me of paintings of Christ. Especially those that are more Semitic in nature.
This is always quite a shock to me, since OBL is clearly a man who has guided other men to die and to kill innocents in large numbers while doing so. I thoroughly reject everything about his methodology, though in some very basic respects I can sympathize with his anger at the West. For the West has much to answer for in its treatment of Middle Eastern peoples down through time.
I am reminded too, of Matthew 25, wherein Christ reminded a confused audience who were sure they had never failed to minister to him in his needs, that when they did not do it to the least of his children, they did not do it for him. In other words, as Mother Theresa reminded us often, we are to see the face of Christ in everyone we come upon.
I am reminded too that I am to believe that God loves every one of his creation as perfectly as I am loved. While I can note the “wrongness” of another’s actions, I cannot make claims of self-righteousness.
I am reminded that I am thoroughly and utterly opposed to the death penalty, and by all accounts this was a pure assassination.
I am reminded that a man I deeply admire, Barack H. Obama, gave the order with the intention that this man die. I can but image the awesomeness and awfulness of that moment to him. I am truly glad that he is our President.
I am reminded that OBL was separated from the day-to-day workings of al-Qaeda and that whatever plans are being made will continue.
I am reminded that it has long been thought that the death of OBL would bring forth an attack, planned for just this occasion.
I am reminded that the streets of America filled in many places spontaneously and people are joyous at this death. And I feel utterly utterly uncomfortable.
I am reminded that the stock market went up, and the oil futures went down.
I am reminded that the President will undoubtedly receive a huge bump in the polls.
Should I be happy at these political plusses?
I am deeply confused and pained by it all.
Ironically, or as I like to think in a fit of serendipity, this is the first thing I read this morning:
“We are living in the greatest revolution in history–a large spontaneous upheaval of the entire human race: not the revolution planned and carried out by any particular party, race, or nation, but a deep elemental boiling over of all the inner contradictions that have ever been in man, a revelation of the chaotic forces inside everybody. This is not something we have chosen, nor is it something we are free to avoid.
This revolution is a profound spiritual crisis of the whole world, manifested largely in desperation, cynicism, violence, conflict, self-contradiction, ambivalence, fear and hope, doubt and belief, creation and destructiveness, progress and regression, obsessive attachments to images, idols, slogans, programs that only dull the general anguish for a moment until it bursts out everywhere in a still more acute and terrifying form. We do not know if we are building a fabulously wonderful world or destroying all that we have ever had, all that we have achieved!
All the inner force of man is boiling and bursting out, the good together with the evil, the good poisoned by evil and fighting it, the evil pretending to be good and revealing itself in the most dreadful crimes, justified and rationalized by the purest and most innocent intentions. [Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander 54-55, reprinted in Seeds, 27, Thomas Merton]
I am angry because I don’t know what is appropriate to think or feel. Although people will talk of “closure” and of “justice” they are words only, and in the dark night as I sit pondering how we so seemingly give legitimacy to murder, I am not comforted in any way. I am the opposite.
I wonder at how no one questions any of this. How all is smiles. “We got him!”
Yes, but who are we?
It’s okay to admit muddled feelings, and it’s refreshing to hear them amidst all the jubilation over OBL’s death. Take time to process this.
Thanks Ahab, I suspect it will take me quite a while.
Thanks for such an honest post. Uncomfortable is a good word. I particularly like your last line – We got him but who are we? That’s worth pondering at length.
Thank you. I am wandering around in a fog about it.
I guess I am feeling somewhat the same. and then i read the NYT and found a quote….
“If this means that there is one less death in the future, then I am glad for that but, I just can’t find it in me to be glad one more person is dead, even if it is Osama bin Laden.”
Harry Waizer, World Trade Tower Survivor , from the NYT
the images of jubilation…. last night…. this morning left me a little queasy …. just like the images of jubilation from some locations in the mid-east after the WTC fell. In the words of Pogo, the Walt Kelly cartoon..” We have met the enemy and they are us”
Amen to that Jimmy…a day filled with lots of conflicting emotions
Middle Seaman said:
My feelings are of indifference. For a segment of the population, Osama’s death in the hand of Americans may provide some closure, for others like me and most of the above people, it’s unavoidable though not totally helpful act.
Terror will stay on the similar level of intensity, which means that we cannot prevent every such act although we are doing a great preventing job now.
Arabs had about 60 years to improve their lot, topple their own dictators and become an important and even shining block of nations. They didn’t do it; blaming the West is a lousy excuse.
For me Obama is a abject failure, although I’ll vote for him in 2012.
Indifference? hmmm…didn’t expect that reaction exactly. But I’m not sure there are “wrong” reactions per se. I’m not sure what you mean by Arabs having 60 years to improve their lot. We are talking about regimes that have been a way of life for centuries. It is the modern advance of TV and especially the Internet that has I think spread the news that other ways of life are about and real views of what they are like. So I think the Arab world is just getting to see in the past 20 years or so, that other ways of living are possible.
I don’t think Obama has been a failure. How many presidents have wanted to reform health care in a meaningful way. He’s the first that has accomplished it, no matter how much further many of us would have liked it to go. As one commentator said, if only 1/2 of the AHC act ends up being the law, it is still heads and shoulders above anything we had before, and that alone makes him a success.
You expressed the unsettled feelings I also have quite well. It is frightening to imagine what could happen in retaliation, mostly because I fear for my youngest daughter being an exchange student in Spain for the next month (and then her return back to the USA).
I can imagine Jan you concerns. I guess we all fear the retaliation, but as someone else said, they threaten us all the time, and have tried before. Nothing much is different now as I see it. Still I will pray for your daughter’s well being.
I am to put it quite bluntly, caught between these two images.
The technical term for your affliction is “Being human.”
Blame God who created you in God’s image.
Hmmm, just commented and it didn’t show up. Are you moderating?
Sherry, I’ve had the same internal conflicts over the issues.
In a segment of Islam we are the agressors; in our culture they are the agressors. they think we need to be stopped and we feel the same way.
It’s said that history is always written by the winners. But as I’m sure we all know here, no winners emerge from these sorts of conflicts.
Nope, not moderating. Unless you had more than two links, then it notifies me.
Thomas Merton talked about this too…We are all enemies to each other, and therefore we will not stop war until the “last” enemy is defeated. But of course, that will never happen. Saner heads must prevail someday.
A brave and honest piece, Sherry.
It is not generally deemed appropriate or even tasteful to declare some understanding of the motives and feelings of “the enemy” – even as one utterly condemns the methods by which they are expressed. A more acceptable message seems to be…
“You are wrong in every way and we will destroy you.”
And while each side continually shouts this declaration at each other, how can we ever hope to reach any kind of resolution?
I see a parallel with my work. I am a TA in a special school, where many of the kids have violent and aggressive tendencies. So do we then declare to these kids, “You are wrong in every way and we will destroy you”? Of course not! While on the one hand we say, “Physical aggression, bullying, etc, will not be tolerated,” we also try to understand what is behind these actions and try and help the children to change their ways – to *want* to change their ways.
Wouldn’t we be more likely to achieve some semblance of peace of we tried a similar approach between nations?
Much like all Fundamentalists who, OBL appears to be trying to do the will of Allah as he sees it. We can decry to the ends of the earth his vision, as we do most fundamentalists, yet, I believe the better way was always to try to understand and look for ways of communicating.
Yes. Communication is *always* the key. Within a marriage, between teacher and student or between nations. But as long as we make such pointless and unproductive declarations as, “We will not talk to terrorists” (on principle, supposedly – but what cost that principle?)… as long as we refuse to talk, and of course to listen, we will continue to fight.
Yep, that’s exactly what I believe…I find the “not negociating with terrorists” mentality stupifying..