You can't listen to the radio or turn on the TV or look at Twitter or Facebook and not be aware of what happened in Pakistan yesterday. Few people aren't talking about the death of Bin Laden, and the range of response is...what's the word I'm looking for? Fascinating? Curious? Expected? I don't know. I don't know how I feel today.
Like so many Americans I remember vividly the events of 9/11, being hugely pregnant with my daughter and working not very far from New York City. Everyone I worked with and socialized with knew someone who was in the towers, we were all affected. My manager's husband was one of a very small number of people who was on the 104th floor of the South Tower who actually survived the attack, fire and collapse of the building.
I remember how stunned we were, all of us, even our then-president. I remember the drawing together as a country, in the way that groups will do when they have been attacked. I loved the feeling of solidarity between us and the other voices around the world that lifted to inform us of their love, their outrage, their sorrow. Being overwhelmed when I thought of the victims and their families, the responders who lost their lives saving others.
In the years since, memory has dulled. A coast away from where I was, the Twin Towers and the loss that was experienced that day is not as big a topic of conversation as I am sure it still is back in Jersey. A decade, two wars, a recession, and the minutiae of life have the cumulative effect of allowing the past to be...well, the past.
From the time that I turned on the news last night, after receiving a call from a friend back East, until now, as I type this post, I continue to experience a range of emotional reaction that leaves me still undecided as to what I feel about Osama Bin Laden and his death.
Of course there is a sense of grim satisfaction, the kind where your eyes narrow and you snarl in triumph. We got you, you sonofabitch. Finally. A hot flash in my gut, some long-forgotten desire for revenge filled. Paybacks are a bitch. Not just for 9/11, either. I remember the 17 sailors who were killed in 2000 aboard the USS Cole, and let us also not forget the 6 victims of the 1993 bomb attack on the World Trade Center. Bin Laden was a man whose ideology was to wage war against America. He would not see you or I as individuals with lives of value, he would see us only as his enemies. And so in that context, a part of me grins savagely at the thought of his demise.
I am proud, of our President and his succinct, to-the-point speech last night. Whatever else he is or is not, I think we can all agree the man is a spectacular orator. I am reminded again of why I cast my ballot for him, when in a field of candidates marked by rancor, idiocy, hatred and paranoia, he stood out to me as a man of great conviction and great ideas. More so, though, I am proud of our military and the precision and professionalism with which this operation was carried out. I imagine there are some men who are celebrating quietly today, even though their names will likely never be made public.
And because I feel some satisfaction and some pride, I also feel ashamed. Ashamed because I do not believe in violence as a solution. I believe in loving people, even when they act in ways that are unlovable. I can't just abandon my belief that we were all created by the same God, regardless of our nationality, culture or ideology. I cannot join those who are celebrating death today. I agree that this is a major, remarkable event, but I don't think it is cause for celebration, flag-waving or fireworks. Killing Osama Bin Laden will not likely prevent future deaths by terrorism, nor will it bring back those whom we have already lost. It is at best an act of revenge.
I feel sorrow as well. Sadness for the victims of the USS Cole bombing and of 9/11, people who survived or family members of those who did not, for whom the events of yesterady - even if they bring some measure of relief - will dredge up memories of horror and tragedy. Sorrow at the reminder of the terrible waste of human life, human potential inflicted in those events and in other acts of terrorism carried out by Al Quaeda and its operatives. Sorrow that we live in a world where war and hatred will seemingly always be part of our present and our future, not just part of our past. Sorrow for all the loss, all the pain, for the children being taught to hate by their parents and their peers - not just children of terrorists, but children of everyday people who because of fear and intolerance are being taught to hate anyone who is part of a particular religion or culture, or simply happened to be born in the wrong country. Sorrow for the divisiveness that has grown here in our own country because we could not agree on the right response, because our leaders took us to wars that so many of us felt did nothing to avenge the past or prevent future attacks.
And that leads to frustration. Frustration over the endless violence begetting violence begetting violence. A violent end to a man who promoted violence as a way of life; deserved? Maybe. Maybe not. I don't know. I'm not God. I'm not willing to pretend I know the answer. Frustration because I know that this death will not end the war in Afghanistan any time soon. Frustration because even when we do eventually leave Afghanistan that we will probably still be engaged in Libya or anywhere else in the world that our government feels that they can protect American interests under the guise of "preserving democracy."
I don't know why I lack the certainty so many others feel about this, but there it is. I don't know if that makes me a bad American, a bad Christian, a bad parent or a bad example. I suppose I can hold some measure of relief that at least I'm still really, really good at writing run-on sentences and being overly parenthetical.