"An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." Mahatma Gandhi
The news this morning has brought tears of joy to many, feelings of victory and satisfaction, a sense of completion. Yet for me I wonder if a death so long anticipated really brings anything to a close, or rather opens a wound in our human family even deeper.
It's hard to attribute human qualities to a man so demonized in our media and culture. The attacks of 9/11are the defining historical moment for so many in my generation. Too young to be truly involved in the national debate over Vietnam the Trade Center's destruction left an indelible mark on all Americans and even the most peace loving were left wanting retribution, justice, and the ability to make it all make sense and have a purpose.
Does the death of Bin Laden serve that purpose or give an America immersed in war throughout the Middle East any real sense of justice or vindication? How does the assassination of one lead to the ability for another to rest easy?
The world is no different this morning because he is dead. In the initial days there will be many who claim victory, even a moral one for the U.S. and there will be many who try to take his place or create terror in his name as a martyr.
U.S. soldiers will be more at risk this month because a new cycle of revenge will begin and the cycle of violence will continue unbroken. There was a time where I believed war was never justified. I had the hippie naivete to think that reason and compromise could result in solutions.
I no longer believe in that simplistic a world or in simple solutions to terrorism here and abroad. I understand that war and indeed violence is sometimes the only way to communicate with evil-but I also know that every time we lower ourselves as human beings to violence our own souls are wounded-our own humanity stained.
Osama Bin Laden was no innocent. By all accounts he was evil incarnate-pursued within by demons that intensified his hatred for the modern world, modern Islam, modern diplomacy. He used money and fear to finance hate and he was a success in a region of the world that is polarized by faith, money, oil, and relationships with Western powers. He preyed on the weakest and least educated and their fears of being overrun by white Christian oppressors and he succeeded because these hapless souls had little else to place their hope in-What futures? What professions? What stability?
The most radicalized individuals with the least to look forward to in their lives. While we Americans have been mired in economic doubt and uncertainty, al-Qaeda forces continue living day to day, hand to mouth. There are no fears of an inability to retire, fears over the stock market or dismantling of Medicare. No worries for the budget cuts of teachers. Nonsense and rubbish. Survival is the concern of these who have come to be known as enemy number one.
So where do we go from here? The violence won't come to an end-there will always be another tyrant to take his place. There is always a "bad guy" to subdue and we like to be the "good guy." But when do we stop being avenging angels on the side of all that is good and become forces looking for vengeance at any cost.
It's too simple to divide the world into right and wrong, good and evil. All of humanity has the potential for evil and when we allow those among us whose purposes are truly evil to determine our own behavior we lower ourselves into the filth with them-and no one comes out the "winner."
I don't have any profound answer. I don't feel better because he is dead-but I certainly won't mourn his death. His death won't satisfy my questions or grief for those lost on 9/11 or in all the days since in the name of justice.
We remain at war today, with one less enemy and a little less of our own soul untouched by violence. I pray for answers, I pray for peace.