Tuesday, May 3, 2011

my take on it

This morning in a local English-language newspaper, there was a photo of people dancing on the streets in D.C., next to a quote from a local bloke saying that he can't help but feel a bittersweet sadness about the whole thing.

Osama Bin Laden's demise has been the watercooler topic of choice today in my office, at least among the internationals! All of us seasoned expat aid workers with Middle East experience had roughly the same reaction: we are not mourning per se, but we don't like the image of partying either. In general, my colleagues feel that celebration makes Americans look like barbarians, takes away whatever credibility or global solidarity we may have merited, and illustrates what's wrong with the U.S.'s image in the world. They pointed out that celebrating death today has invalidated our righteous indignation when Palestinians partied after 9/11, and now it is we who deserve the resentment of victims who have lost loved ones.

(Palestinians, it might be argued, have suffered a proportion of wrongs that greatly outshadow any wrongs suffered by Americans at the hands of terrorists - but whose counting? After all, death is death and it is always a bad thing. Parties about death = always bad. In my humble opinion.)

One colleague took it a step further and pointed out that this was a well-timed political move on the part of the U.S. administration. I might take it yet another step further and recall the Postmodern theory behind the film Wag the Dog. Click that link: that book will totally mess with your mind if you haven't heard about it before. A bit sensationalist it may be, but in tale of the Hunt for Bin Laden, it makes resonates to me. Are we sure he really died two nights ago? It wasn't a look alike? He was not a young guy and he lived in caves; does no one but me wonder if he didn't really die of old age 5 years ago? Either way, I pray for mercy and I pray for the grace to pray for his friends and loved ones, and for the others who died in that raid.

Furthermore, I find myself wondering, does his death really matter, in the historical sense? Has al-Qaeda been defeated? Has justice been done? I fear that we may just have further fanned the flames of global hatred. Some groups are already declaring revenge for the famed leader's death. So do we really think that, when all was said and done, killing this famed terrorist will have been worth it for the West, particularly the U.S.A.? What if his death inspires more terrorists to take more lives?

From the very beginning, I believe 9/11 could have been an opportunity for the U.S.A. to show the world how to turn the other cheek, the Ghandian and MLK teachings (teachings they learned from Jesus!) about the power of nonviolent resistance. When I read about nonviolence, I read of something very difficult to do but very powerful in its impact: in this case, it would mean defeating war by declaring peace.

I tried hard not to offend anyone in writing this, and if I did, I apologise. I'd love to hear your thoughts and think it through together.


happygirl said...

Kati, It's a tough call. I, too, am not sad, but not jubilant. I, too, am concerned about the politicizing. I, too, wonder about the necessity of two or three war fronts. But, USA does not turn the other cheek. USA is not a Christian nation or nonviolent. Where do you see that in our history? ;/ I'm not saying it wouldn't be nice, but it's not who we are. Good luck staying uncynical. I'm praying, as well.

Kati patrianoceu said...

We may be a war-defined nation by history, but yes, it would be nice to move toward changing that. With great power comes great responsibility! :)

As far as this issue, goes, tho, I guess what I don't see is any victory for diplomacy or for the U.S. position in the global sphere. What battle was won in the war on terrorism? Yes, I want to be idealist and uncynical, but even on the pragmatic side the only "good" I see coming out of this is electoral votes.

And I really do believe in nonviolence, not as an ideal or as a second-best or as something that can be tried when all else failed... I actually think it's one of the most powerful weapons that exists.

Lisa notes... said...

As usual, your perspective is always interesting to me because of your global position. I wish I had something intelligent to add to the conversation, but I don't. Just soaking in what you said and the good sense it makes.

flower power momma said...

skepticism has been in my mind too. Wondering if this is a political move.

Unknown said...

well spoken, Kati. I totally appreciate your perspective. My family and I have been talking a lot about the appropriate response and I love your simple formula "parties about death = always bad". :) My husband, in his current job as a social studies teacher, talked with his students about the fact that, perhaps, news of OBL's death is the closest thing we'll have to a V-day in the War on Terror. Does that context allow for some sort of celebration? I don't know. I'd love your thoughts....

Kati patrianoceu said...

Hi friends... Thank you for your thoughts and encouraging words. I didn't do a very good job of replying to comments, so I just wrote a (very-long, I'm afraid) blog responding to thoughts here and on Fbook:

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