What a weekend of events we’ve had on our little blue planet in our small, somewhat unknown corner of the universe. I normally do not comment on political events on my blog. I find that political discussion invites an incivility and ugliness in which I do not care to engage. I was unsure whether to write about the events of Sunday evening, but after reading much of the news on my return home yesterday, I decided to share some thoughts.
First of all I must be clear, the following opinion is mine alone, and does not represent opinions of the Departments of the Navy or Defense for whom I work.
I was at home in Utah visiting my parents this weekend. My mom and I were sitting in the living room talking, when the phone rang Sunday night. It was my brother J telling us to turn on the news. When I asked him why, he said that Osama Bin Laden had been killed and the President was getting ready to make a statement. My dad joined us, and we watched the news as a family.
I deployed to Afghanistan in 2008 for about a year. While there, I felt once again the effects of September 11th, and saw how much damage a relatively small group of people were inflicting on that nation. It was an eye opening year.
So, when I heard the news of Bin Laden’s death, it felt a little personal, because I had been there and seen how the lives of fellow human beings were still being haunted by this man. For that matter, one year of my “normal” life was taken away as a result of this man’s ideology and actions.
I felt relief and satisfaction on one hand, and yet, on the other hand, my heart was aching. I hate that as a human race, we must resort to an eye for an eye, that to set right over three thousand wrongful deaths we must kill one more human being. I get that it’s part of our human condition, but I still don’t like it. I want us to be better.
I watched the crowds celebrating in Washington, DC and New York City, NY, and felt a mixture of emotion: understanding, relief, excitement, shame and concern.
I was stationed in London, UK on September 11th. I remember watching crowds of people in other countries celebrate our nation’s tragedy. A young woman, not from England, told me to my face, that my country deserved what had happened because we are arrogant. I remember the anger I felt and thinking that I refused with all my heart to be like those people.
I also remember our doorman, Abdul-lah from Iraq, who said to me, “Our worlds may be at war, but you and I, we are not. We are friendly and have respect for each other.” His kindness towards me and my roommates epitomizes the best of human relations and I remember him with fondness. I want to be like him and reach out in kindness to others, and refuse to allow cultural and political differences to obstruct my view of my brothers and sisters.
As a nation and a people, I think we are better than the celebration of another human being’s death that was shown to the world on television Sunday night. We are also better than the vitriol and ugliness, we have in our current political discussions, but that’s for another post. We must be better. It wasn’t too long ago that America was regarded as a light in many parts of the world. I’m not sure of all that caused this to change, but I hope we can find more ways to let our light shine further, brighter and purer.
I am relieved that the symbol of so much hatred and wrongful use of power is gone. I spread the news by calling other members of my family. My brother R2 even thanked me, saying that I had played a small part in this event. I sent texts to close friends with whom I served in Afghanistan. We are all glad that he is gone.
Honestly, I did not want my tax dollars going to support any breath of air that that man would draw while awaiting a trial. I hesitate to say that I am glad that Bin Laden is dead, but I am. I am also relieved that we do not have the responsibility of ensuring his safety and well-being until his trial was over and he was executed. So all this seems to me, a bit better than him still alive, because either way he would have eventually died.
For Soldiers, Sailors, Airman and Marines in Afghanistan and other places in the world, the war still goes on. It’s business as usual with a now heightened alert status. These men and women don’t get to come home tomorrow. Too many of them will not step onto American soil under their own power, but will instead be carried on the shoulders of their brothers- and sisters-in-arms to a final resting place while loved ones watch with tears in their eyes.
Bin Laden’s death doesn’t change any of this. He didn't personally pull the trigger, plant IEDs, pilot a plane or wear a suicide bomb vest, but he did provide the means for other people to do these things. He has a long history of promoting violence and hatred. He even created a secret alliance to carry out such atrocities in the name of God. He planted an ideology of war and hate into hearts and minds, and perversely called it religion.
If nothing else, at least, today there is one less person in the world contributing to the corruption of a religion, hatred towards his fellow man and the ability to carry out violence. And when I think about that, I feel relieved.
What replaces the evil that was snuffed out? Is it rejoicing over someone’s death? A sense that justice has been served? A resolve to be better and do more to show the kind of nation and people we truly are? A hope that good will reign in the hearts of men? Love and service to our fellow brothers and sisters, no matter what their word for God is? Will we just be better? I hope so.
We still have a long way to go, and more people will die. Some of these people will have committed the atrocities, and others, necessarily so, will be defending against those atrocities. I, for one, do not want the sacrifices on my behalf to be dishonored or forgotten. I want to be better than what I saw in a lot of people over these past few days. I want us to be better.
As someone who enjoys the benefits of democracy and the light of freedom, I want this to be my legacy: That I strive to uphold the Constitution, seek goodness in all its forms, and love and serve my brothers and sisters everywhere.
I urge you to think about your own legacy and how you want to be remembered. People choosing light and goodness are powerful, even more powerful than those who choose the opposite.