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.
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?