Wednesday, May 04, 2011


Ding, Dong, the Witch is Dead. Really?

I wasn't planning on writing about the death of Osama bin Laden. really, I wasn't. I'm not a political blogger, and I find that the easiest way to polarize people is to talk about politics, and to a lesser degree, religion. I'm aware of the brouhaha about the supposedly "fake" MLK quote which wasn't actually fake, merely misquoted clumsily. On the spectrum of responders to the news of his death, I'm one of the ones who posted the MLK quote and voiced my doubts about whether this one man was ever really why we're at war in the Middle East.

But this post is isn't about how I'm right and the people celebrating in Times Square were wrong. This post is about tolerance and compassion. I never liked the world 'tolerance'. To me it sounds like it's asking us to merely tolerate other peoples' differences, rather than to actively respect and engage with them. But I'm using it here in its meaning of  "respecting others' experiences and opinions without denigrating theirs or defending your own."

I heard that bin Laden had been killed while perusing Facebook. I was immediately (as in, within seconds) fascinated by how people fell into three categories: the "Ra! Ra! USA" camp, the "MLK quote" group, and the quiet ones, who never posted about it at all. My immediate response was to post a status update implying that the wars were never about bin Laden. I got two comments, one that supported me and one that didn't.The person who posted the comment that didn't support my position later deleted it, though I did not respond to it in any way. Within a day, blog posts and articles on his death sprouted up all over the internet,  as happens these days. What has struck me in the few days of reading about this incident is how inflamed people are about it, and how unpopular it is to write anything that brings up uncomfortable questions about his death, or that brings up complex questions about celebrating it. You can see what I mean here, if you read this article on the Huffington Post, about a mindful response to bin Laden's death, and then read the comments. The overwhelming tone of responders is condescending, insulting, and childish. They snipe at the author's square glasses, call him names, take his remarks out of context, and generally act offended that he wrote what he did. People who write comments that support him are also insulted, though they, out of all respondants seem to be trying to hold a middle ground (i.e. "I do not celebrate his death yet I grieve for the thousands of lives he destroyed...")

To me, what bin Laden's death has really shown us is that when humans' emotions are inflamed, they absolutely lose any semblance of common decency, respect, or compassion. Obviously, the internet's level of anonymity doesn't help in that regard. The real enemy here was never Osama bin Laden or Al-Quaeda. The real enemy is our animalistic, knee-jerk, illogical need to create enemies at all, and especially to create them out of others around us who are merely voicing opinions that we do not share. No matter what you feel about the death of this man and the others around him who were killed, I want to ask you one thing: Is it possible to allow others to process their feelings without attempting to prove their feelings wrong?

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