Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Reacting to the reaction to the reaction

I'm a little behind schedule on this blog post (I like to get one in Monday afternoons) because ... well ... a lot has happened over the past few days. I had thought at first to write something about performing the solo show this past weekend and how it compared to earlier versions and then ... this happened.  And the world changed just a little bit.

Or maybe it changed a lot bit. It's a hard thing for me to read. My roommate called my mom and me into the living room to watch the president's speech announcing his death. My mom's first reaction was assuming he had died of sickness, but then on finding out that he had been taken down by American troops, she was satisfied we actually accomplished that goal. My roommate's first reaction was "there's going to be retaliation. They won't let this slide." My first reaction was ... I don't know. A quiet surprise. A moment of "oh. That's happened. This is good." But not knowing further implications.

I don't know what this will actually mean.

I spent the rest of the evening and the next day observing the reaction to the announcement of his death, and the reaction to that reaction. There was quiet celebration and triumph and pride, and there were those same emotions but louder and raucous. People gathered at Ground Zero. People gathered in Time Square. People gathered in cities across America. And then the reaction to this wild celebration - this chastisement that we should not, should never celebrate death. That this makes us no different from all those who celebrated the day the World Trade Center melted and fell to the ground, killing thousands, and changing the face of this country irrevocably. We are still feeling the reverberating effects of that day nearly ten years later, and will continue to feel them.

But what are the reverberating effects of his death, ten years after the attack, ten years after we first cried Vengeance/Justice? Right now they're looking dangerously short-sighted. It has quickly become ammo for both Right and Left as far as who has the better claim of victory. And just as quickly have the general populace divided on whether this should be something to celebrate or not. They're not debating whether he was a good man or not - that ship has sailed - they're arguing more over what our reaction should be.

What I think: Osama Bin Laden was a dangerous evil man who worshipped death and led his followers in this worship. Because they chose death as a value over life, they worked hard to bring this "value" to all perceived enemies. They killed thousands of civilians. It is a good thing he is dead. And call it Justice or Revenge, I think it is a good thing he was taken down by human means, rather than merely succumbing to illness. It is a good thing he is no longer alive on this earth. But he was also not alone in his code of morality and conduct. There is still much evil in the world. Taking down a totem is a big step, but the whole structure has not collapsed.

As to the world's response ... I don't know. I do not know. It is a lot to grapple with and I don't feel conversant enough in this kind of dialogue to have any pretense at an intelligent discussion here. But if the main objection is that we should not be celebrating death, that it makes us no different than those who celebrated 9/11, then I say: what's true is Death should never be held up as an ideal, as a value. I think perhaps they're actually celebrating the end of something evil, someone evil. That end was a death, and that's where the issue gets sticky.

I don't know what will come next, for America, for America's petty political games, or for the far more real and consequential battles raging across the Middle East.

I don't really enjoy getting into political debates, and do not really intend to start one here. I did not really want to write this post, but felt that it was not something I could completely leave alone. Feel free to comment, but please remain calm. I am interested in your thoughts.

I would also like to link to another thoughtful blogger's response: Now that he is dead, we can feel relief and a small primal twinge of satisfaction. And then we must get back to work.

1 comment:

  1. Before the announcement, during the suspenseful hour, my husband and I thought one of two things were happening: we were being invaded by aliens or we were going to war. Then the "confirmed stipulations" declared his death, and we thought how funny it would be if the reporters were wrong. Then Obama spoke, like you, we thought ok. We then proceeded into the possible implications of the context of his death. Then I went to sleep and my husband continued to watch his shows.