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On This Day
I sit and read some of the thousands of comments that are posted on FaceBook, online forums and after each news item… and I cringe. I watch the televised scenes of jubilant rejoicing, flag-waving and back-slapping… and it all feels, somehow, primitive and wrong.
Today I simply feel pensive. Though the removal of Bin Laden is a blow for justice and a strike against the tyranny of terrorism, I find it difficult to celebrate for the day is also a reminder of unspeakable tragedy and loss. Instead of cheering, I just feel like finding a quiet place in which to pray for a world gone so terribly awry.
I suppose that I find the party atmosphere exhibited in some demonstrations a bit disconcerting. I would have hoped that the “end” of this horrific chapter in history would have been marked with somber dignity and reflection in deference to those who perished nearly 10 years ago, the over 5,000 men and women of our military who have died in service, the countless innocent causalities of “war” and the valiant soldiers who remain so vulnerable to harm.
That being said, I mean no criticism of those who choose this occasion to voice their relief and pleasure. But let us not use tragedy to victimize the blameless or make generalizations based upon a lack of knowledge. Some of the online comments about “Muslims” are appalling and I thank President Obama for his statement; “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.”
And I wonder if we have learned anything from 9/11, that still-incomprehensible act of cowardice, hatred and intolerance. There are those who, in their abysmal ignorance, condemn an entire religion; those who attack President Obama with ludicrous conspiracy theories based upon nothing more than his name and the color of his skin; those who practice the unholy art of hate-mongering via the media and internet. These people seek only their “fifteen minutes” of supposed fame by pouring gasoline on an already raging fire.
We should walk very carefully these days and examine our own hearts and motives. Although we must defend ourselves, we also have to guard against the drive to answer hatred with hatred, intolerance with intolerance and needless violence with needless violence. Rhetoric that serves only to inflame and divide us will weaken and undermine this nation as surely as a terrorist’s bullet.
Bin Laden is dead. That does not signal an end to terrorism here or abroad. If we cannot, or will not, deepen our knowledge, broaden our understanding and intensify our desire for peace this will prove to be a Pyrrhic Victory.
(Later this day: I read online articles and feel less alone in my thoughts. Mike Hayes, a campus minister at the University at Buffalo: “I don’t think that the celebrations in the streets were our finest moment as Americans, and reminded me much of the anger I felt at seeing Afghans dancing in the streets at the fall of the Towers on that dreaded day. We are called to forgiveness. And that is the only way that we can be truly free.”
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