Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Ugly American

As I reflect on the death of Osama Bin Laden, I'm reminded of what this nation has gone through collectively over the past decade to get to this point. Countless lives have been lost, families destroyed on both sides, and a veritable myriad of constitutional rights thrown by the wayside. Obviously, these are all casualties of war, from minor inconveniences in our daily lives all the way up to those who have lost their loved ones. No victory, no matter what magnitude, has the power to reverse what's been lost.

I'm aware that this is, fundamentally speaking, a victory for our country for a number of reasons. On the most basic of levels, it accomplishes a goal that was set out in the beginning of this conflict. It provides at least a small amount of closure for families who have lost so much to this war. It is mainly a symbolic victory, as Bin Laden has controlled very little of Al Qaeda since 9/11, acting as more of a spiritual head of the organization, a collective face of evil in American eyes, if you will. The strategic situation in this war will be no different than it was last week, and in fact may prove worse and more dangerous for our soldiers now that he has become a martyr for his cause.

This is also a victory for our president, who's approval ratings will no doubt soar at a crucial time for him. This victory, however, seems bittersweet. The fact that, despite his vast accomplishments since taking office, this will likely be the defining moment of his presidency is a sad fact. Although I would love to think undecided voters would choose him based on the broad scope of impressive changes he's made in our country, this is not the country we live in. While I'm elated that he now has a very good chance at winning a second term, I wish this were not the event that made it possible. I truly hope that he is remembered for the political innovator that he is and continues to be, and not for the murder of one enemy.

Mainly, when I began to learn more about the circumstances of his death, I began to think about what an amazing opportunity our government and military had show our growth and maturity at the highest level. I couldn't be more proud of our soldiers that, despite how much blood was on his hands, treated Bin Laden's body with respect and took the time to give him a proper Islamic burial. Not only was this smart, as the last thing this country needs is to further ideals of Islamaphobia, but it was a beautiful display of humanity as a whole. My largest wish on that night was that this profound display would have a trickle-down effect on all American citizens. An opportunity to show growth as a nation is something we rarely get, and these opportunities should be take advantage of whenever possible. Unfortunately, this has largely not been the case.

The reaction of some members of the the general public thus far has been reprehensible and downright appalling in some cases. The celebration of the murder of one man is not only un-American, it is barbaric. The sheer amount of blood lust displayed even by my own acquaintances has been almost too much for me to bear, and make me feel ashamed of my own country. Some of the reactions I have seen in the last 36 hours exemplify why countless nations hate us. It is, by and large, due to the disgusting hypocrisy shown in our celebration of Bin Laden's death. We look at news organizations showing footage of burning American flags and crowds cheering the death of American soldiers and say to ourselves "this is the enemy, we're better than these people", but the reaction to his death has proven that we have it in ourselves to be no more than a variation of the people we see as our enemies. If we want to show the rest of the world that we're above that kind of behavior, it's time to lead by example. We can not improve the rest of the world's view of us if this is horrendous display we're going to put forth.

Furthermore, this is not a time for celebration. If anything, it is a time for silent reflection of what has brought us to this point, what we have accomplished and what we still need to accomplish. We have lost countless lives to get to this goal, and the death of an enemy does not bring back the loss of a son, father, brother, mother, daughter or sister. This is a somber moment of closure for those who have lost everything, not an excuse to drink to someone's death.

‎"Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."

-Martin Luther King, Jr.