The Other I

May 2, 2011

Be careful what we hate

Filed under: Political thoughts — theotheri @ 8:15 pm

We were living in the Lake District of England.  It was late morning and we switched on the television to hear a speech to be given by Tony Blair.  Instead we turned on the Twin Towers.

We had lived in New York City and spent our professional lives there.  Friends and colleagues worked in the Twin Towers.  I barely moved from the chair the entire day, and lost my appetite and ability to sleep.  For days I walked around in a daze, feeling as if at any moment I was going to throw up.

That was just under ten years ago.

Now at last they have tracked down Bin Laden and killed him.

I knew people who died in the Twin Towers but I did not lose a husband, a father, a child, a loved one.  I cannot say that if I had I would not want to join those dancing in the streets today in my beloved New York.

But I do not feel like dancing.

I wonder if in some terrifying way, we have become too much like what we have hated.

Bin Laden believed that the West, and especially America, was responsible for the subjugation of Muslims around the world.  He believed he knew the judgement of God and had the mission to carry out God’s just punishment against those who betrayed his people.

But change the names in those beliefs.  Do we not have then many of our own views?  Bin Laden was no longer a significant terrorist threat.  But we feel that we have a legitimate right to bring about retribution for what he did.  Justice, we say, demands it, and it is our obligation to impose it.

Yes.  And has this made the world better?  or safer?  our leaders are already warning us that extra vigilance is required against those who are now going to try to exact retribution for Bin Laden’s death.   Have we shown anybody that anything but violence might be viable?  These are complex issues with huge areas of uncertainty.  I don’t pretend the right things to do are obvious or clear-cut

But do we really have to dance in the streets because we have finally killed him?


  1. It was the first time I ever felt happy about learning of a death of someone but this was a man who had inflicted so much pain on so many. I think part of the happiness I felt was because of seeing a possibility of removing the hatred and feeling peace had a chance. Also feeling closure for the many who suffered because of him.
    I thought this kind of says it all:The Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi, put it very well: “In the face of a man’s death, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibilities of each person before God and before men, and hopes and works so that every event may be the occasion for the further growth of peace and not of hatred.”


    Comment by djc1 — May 3, 2011 @ 3:15 pm | Reply

    • Thank you for this quote, Donna. I agree with the Vatican spokesman as far as it goes. But he doesn’t deal with how a Christian “who never rejoices at a man’s death” should deal with the fact that he or she does actually rejoice. And perhaps the much more difficult question of how a Christian should work “so that every event may be the occasion for the further growth of peace and not of hatred.” This seems to me so much more easily said than done. For instance, how would Fr Lombardi evaluate dancing in the street in terms of his criterion? or burning the Koran? what, specifically, would he suggest might further the growth of peace rather than hatred? I don’t pretend to know the answer, though, as I said, I do support the goal. And simply reminding his people of this, I think, also is a value in itself. Even if we don’t know how to achieve it, or fail to exercise the breadth and depth we need to try to implement it.

      Whew, I’m being much more long winded than I mean to be. A much shorter version might simply have been “how do we do that?”

      Thank you again. I probably needed to think this through a lot more than you needed to hear me doing it.


      Comment by theotheri — May 3, 2011 @ 7:39 pm | Reply

  2. Thanks for this post–I’ve been disturbed by the celebrations too. I mean, I kind of understand where those folks are coming from, but I keep thinking that this isn’t a trivial thing, and it wasn’t undertaken lightly. What if we had been more solemn about the whole thing, as a country (as a world)? What if we’d gathered outside the White House to pray for peace and weep that the world has come to this? What kind of a country would that have made us? One reporter I know said he wished George Bush was still president because he, at least, would have given us a big fist pump at the news conference, instead of the stoic (less newsworthy, I suppose) dignity of Obama. It’s not heartening…


    Comment by Chris — May 4, 2011 @ 11:12 am | Reply

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