I first heard about the death of Osama bin Laden through Facebook. I was able to live-stream President Obama's remarks and hear some of the analysis immediately afterwards. I thought about my friends who lost loved ones on 9/11 and hoped that the news brought them some peace or closure. I was awe-struck at the realization that while President Obama was pwning Donald Trump at the White House Correspondents Dinner the previous night, he knew all this was going on. Man, our POTUS has a thing or two to teach us about zen mastery.
I really thought the tone of Obama's announcement to the world was spot-on. It was appropriately sober and direct, the words were obviously carefully chosen to show deep respect for the victims of 9/11, our military, and the other nations who have lost so many of their own people in this war. I was also amazed that the mission lasted just a couple hours and resulted in no American casualties. My favorite part of the speech:
As we do, we must also reaffirm that the United States is not –- and never will be -– at war with Islam. I’ve made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam. Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own. So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.
But after I saw images of my own countrymen basically holding a frat party outside of the White House, hanging off of trees and singing "Nah nah nah nah, hey hey hey, goodbye," I didn't feel so good anymore. I felt strangely panicky, in fact, and wanted to announce to the world that I was also an American and didn't feel celebratory at all, that we are not a hateful people. After the initial shock, I now just feel empty by how quickly this has turned into a bit of a farce, our real world version of "1984," complete with the Two Minutes of Hate.
This morning, I read this statement from the Council on American Islamic Relations (this and other Muslim reactions can be found on Goat Milk):
We join our fellow citizens in welcoming the announcement that Osama bin Laden has been eliminated as a threat to our nation and the world through the actions of American military personnel. As we have stated repeatedly since the 9/11 terror attacks, bin Laden never represented Muslims or Islam. In fact, in addition to the killing of thousands of Americans, he and Al Qaeda caused the deaths of countless Muslims worldwide. We also reiterate President Obama’s clear statement tonight that the United States is not at war with Islam.
Although very tactfully worded, it reminded me of who was actually conducting the majority of the Muslim deaths worldwide: we are. 9/11 did not just kill over 3,000 people over the course of one day; over a million people died in Iraq alone, and those people had as much to do with the 9/11 terrorist attacks as I did. Does the death of Osama bin Laden justify or bring closure to their deaths as well? Does the fact that "he started it" make him the only person responsible for the millions of lives lost or displaced in these 10 years? I'm not sure, and I don't know what to do about it.
Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction. So when Jesus says "Love your enemies," he is setting forth a profound and ultimately inescapable admonition. ... The chain reaction of evil — hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars — must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.
- Martin Luther King, Jr.