I just spent the last couple of hours watching history unfold. It is well-known by now, that last night (I write these words around 1:30 am of May 2nd) President Barrack Obama told the world that Osama Bin Laden, mastermind of the USS Cole and 9/11 attacks, was dead.
The news leaked about an hour before the announcement and by the time Obama took the microphone, there were already hundreds of people outside of the White House chanting and celebrating the fact. Crowds were also gathering around Ground Zero in New York City in what became an important and emotional chapter in US history.
As the night progressed, discourse both in mainstream media and on the streets got charged up more and more and before long, what began with chanting of patriotic songs (God Bless America and the Star Spangled Banner) became a rowdy football fan-like behavior. “Yes, we can” evolved to “USA! USA! USA!” and “Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, goodbye.” On twitter, new users like OsamaInHell and GhostOsama were created and tweets making reference to the foursquare network mentioning that Osama Bin Laden was the now mayor of Hell were retweeted all night. “Obama got Osama” T-shirts are already on sale. Admittedly, the trend was contagious and I even fell into it for a second. But we have to be better than this.
I can understand that the US needs to take a moment to celebrate achieving a goal they set a long time ago but we cannot let it become the catalyst of hate.
When the twin towers fell, I remember news media showing footage from Palestine of people celebrating in the streets. Watching Americans do exactly the same today, worries me. Death and vengeance should not be an occasion for joy and as Mohandas Gandhi famously said “an eye for eye makes the world go blind.”
I don’t mean to eradicate extremism. That would be naïve. But we cannot allow ourselves the easy privilege of going with the flow and letting the worst part of our human nature take over. I felt sick reading some racist comments from readers of news media saying that Obama’s speech should have started with “I got that cocksucker towelhead. We got him right between the frickin’ eyes.” It is irrelevant to look for the root cause of the conflict, to point fingers and say who is to blame for all the hate… but far too quickly we’ve forgotten why the Taliban was in power in Afghanistan in the first place. In most conflicts, no one party is completely innocent and no one party is completely to blame.
Please, dear readers, let’s acknowledge this day in history for what it is and ONLY for what it is. Last night a man who considered his ends to justify his means which included targeting innocent civilians, was killed in a military operation in Pakistan. It was not the triumph of good over evil and it was not Obama “getting a cocksucker towelhead.”
Please break the hate cycle. It is time to call for unity, not vengeance (and you don’t want vengeance coming your way either).
All we are saying is give peace a chance.