Attached to Vengeance

i have been sitting with my thoughts rolling around in my head about osama bin laden’s death. the best i could come up with to say is to never become a people who celebrate the death of others.

today my sister Autumn Brown sent her newsletter, and she says it all so gracefully:

Hello Good People,

Like many Americans, I sat with my eyes glued to the television on Sunday night waiting for the mysterious news relating the national security, for which the president had called an unprecedented press conference. My stomach was tied in knots: are we going to war (again)? My mother is traveling abroad, will she be safe? My family is spread across the country, will we be prevented from seeing each other? Did we finally make first contact with alien life?

And then each news channel in turn began reporting that Osama bin Laden had been killed by our government. I felt deflated, and then a growing sense of disgust. I worked for two years at a disaster relief non-profit whose offices overlooked the site of the towers. I remember avoiding Church Street on my lunch breaks so that I wouldn’t have to see the tourists with their Century 21 shopping bags posing for pictures with their children in front of the fence that hid what I could clearly see from the window of my 20th floor office: a gaping wound in the earth that still holds the bones of the dead. And I knew what was coming in the morning.

There would be celebrating. Hooting and hollering. Flag-waving and cheering. Everyone so full of joy at the death of a man. But when I look at the pictures and the footage of Mr. bin Laden and try to raise my anger, I find that I cannot. Yes, he masterminded a terrorist attack that almost killed my father, and succeeded in killing thousands of people. Yes, his actions and international persona gave the most powerful country in the world a face for its wars. Yes, he inspired and continues to inspire others to do violence. But I look at those pictures, and I see that footage, and I see a man. Just a man. A weak mouth, a long face, and lovely, sad eyes.

My friend said of the celebrations, “We are so attached to vengeance.” And when I look at Mr. bin Laden, I see someone who was also attached to vengeance. And if that does not create room for me to see him as a frail, flawed human – now, a dead human – then what can?

Having experienced my own injustices and physical and emotional violences, I find that I can look around and see so many places in my life that I could seek vengeance. My sister asks me, “Autumn, is there room for a transformative moment in the midst of this?”

And that is the question that still stands.

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