Monday, May 2, 2011

A mixed bag of emotions

I was speechless last night. For those who know me personally, you know how rare that is. As per usual, my shock upon hearing the news of OBL's death caused me to crack a quick, lame, slightly inappropriate joke. In my defense, I can't hear the word America without at least quietly sining "fuck yeah!"... it's a curse. Moments later, the news sunk in. I couldn't speak. I couldn't sort out how to feel. I didn't celebrate. I didn't cheer. I thought of waking up on my birthday nearly 10 years ago and spending it in a haze of confusion and heartache. I remembered visiting Ground Zero just 3 months after, the teddy bear of a missing girl resting against the fence, a visual seared forever into my memory. I sat quietly and thought of the stories my former co-workers shared about their experiences living in Manhattan on 9/11. I reflected on that pain that our country has suffered at the hand of this man. The fear we all have lived in, relationships damaged by political bickering, the innocent Muslims mistreated due to ignorance, and of course, families and friends torn apart because of the deaths of those fighting in this war. I let all of this flood my mind, not knowing how to feel. At last, I merely sank into the relief that I no longer had to think about this man. I have no idea if this is related, but last night was the best I have slept in months.

I knew I was taking a risk when I opened my laptop this morning. I wanted to read more. I wanted to become a part of the community who was celebrating. I hoped that my community would, if only for a day, be able to focus on relief and joy . This war is not over, but, for a short time, we have reason to feel peace. We have reason to put everything else aside and share in each others relief. In President Obama's speech last night, he spoke of how we came together as a country during great tragedy:


We offered our neighbors a hand, and we offered the wounded our blood. We reaffirmed our ties to each other, and our love of community, and country. On that day, no matter where we came from, what God we pray to, or what race or ethnicity we were, we were united as one American family.


Was I naive to hope that just as we can unite within our suffering, we can also unite within our relief? I suppose I was. I knew that the reactions to this news would be varying and strong. Within moments of signing on to Facebook and Twitter, my heart began to hurt, and my speech returned to me.


I never expected to feel elated over the news, as I have never been able to celebrate death. For me, thinking of 9/11 is sobering. Bin Laden's death is merely a reminder of what led to this day. To quote a Huffington Post article a friend posted as I type this: "His death is satisfying not only because of what he did, but because it prevents him from doing any more violence in the future in the name of religion". I believe that his death or capture was necessary, but I do not revel in death. I do not rejoice in the fall. Having said that, I am sympathetic to those who genuinely feel joy and closure. Then I see it... "Welcome to Hell, Bin Laden". Jubilee that "we got his sons too". In this moment, my heart broke for our country. Again. I have thrown out every expletive in the book, but I never have told someone to go to hell. As a person of faith, I take this seriously. I know EVERYONE is capable of evil. I always hope for redemption, though I know that often it never comes. I agree that justice needs to be served, but when it must be served in this manner, it still breaks my heart. Because Osama deserves to be there does not make it a joyous truth. I will never acknowledge someone being in hell with anything but heartbreak; for the reasons they are there, for the pain inflicted on others, and also for the brokenness that led a person to live a life where that sentence is considered justice. There is nothing joyous about that. I will never witness those around me gleefully welcoming a man and his family to hell without feeling sorrow and disgust. When I see that, I see our own ugliness and evil. It may be what is necessary, but it is tragic all the same.


What I am encountering the most is people using this to bicker. We have become so divided as a nation, so offensive in our communication, so egocentric in our world views, that instead of letting this information sink in, people comment on Bin Ladens death and then insult their opposing political party in the next breath. People are arguing over which President should get what percentage of "the win". They ignore Obama thanking the tireless efforts of our military, and quoting Bush in his speech, and claim he gives nobody credit but himself. Frankly, I think drawing attention to those arguments is insulting to those in the military. If a person wants to give credit that strongly, let them be all that is discussed. Why not simply shine the spotlight on those who served, instead of using their service as a way to get people to take a side? I'm watching comment threads fill with conspiracy theories (some new, some terribly threadbare). Status updates are filled with people managing to take this news and use it as a platform for every political issue that they always gripe about. How is this helpful? How is this necessary? What does it say about our minds and souls if our first instinct if to use this information to promote our own motives? I believe these times bring out what is truly at our core, and I'm brought to tears by what I am observing today.


No matter your feelings towards the news, this is a time where everybody should be able to sit in peace, if just for a moment. To celebrate, perhaps not celebrate death and destruction, but the fact we can hope to at least be a step closer to ending this horrible chapter of our nations history. This morning, I am filled with grief again. I have seen how torn apart we really are. I have seen how selfishly we still prioritize. I have sat here heartbroken, taken in the vitriol, and wondered how long we will continue on this way. Extremism brought this tragedy to our country, and now we let our own extremism continue to keep us at war with each other. It is my naive hope that we can try to unite as a country. I feel that until we can learn to respect, to consider, to love each other, we will never win.


I close with a quote from the same article mentioned before. Here is the link for those who want to read the post in its entirety: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-raushenbush/celebrating-a-death_b_856124.html


"So, let us mute our celebrations. Let any satisfaction be grim and grounded in the foundation of justice for all who have suffered at bin Laden's bloody hands. And also justice for crimes against God -- for using God as an instrument of terror and and promoting distrust between peoples of different religions and nations. Let us put bin Laden's body in the ground, and in doing so bury his disastrous and blasphemous religious legacy."

4 comments:

melody joy wilson said...

thank you so much for writing this. you put words to all the conflicting emotions i've been feeling. well said, my friend.

Sonny said...

very, very well said....

Corrigan said...

When I was in high school, I remember a camp counselor at my Christian summer camp telling us that hate is being able to imagine someone going to hell and not caring. How much greater is that hate when it goes beyond indifference to eternal suffering, to celebration of it? I can't celebrate this. God isn't willing that any should perish, right? I like what you said about understanding the relief of those who have been so profoundly affected by his evil actions. And furthe, you're right that it speaks some very sad things for our country that our first reactions to the elimination of this threat is to fight with each other. To use the early aughts reaction to just about everything, does this mean the terrorists win? After all, if the goal was to destabilize us as a nation, we are pretty damn unstable.
Well written post all around, Bri. I think this means I don't have to write one of my own.

Jill said...

Yep, you summed it up for me... exactly how I've been feeling - but becuse I've lived in asia for 2 years, I've forgotten the big words to help me express it! :)