Wednesday, May 11, 2011

brian Williams, on nbc, said, “this is one of those moments you’ll remember where you were when you heard the news…”
I had just turned on my staple, msnbc, and saw the words that always rev up my heart: breaking news. david gregory…uh oh, they only trot him out for the important stuff, who died?!  hey, look, I lived through martin and bobby, jack and Malcolm x…I even watched my  hero, the gipper, Reagan get shot… so, those words are gut punches to me. I heard david say, “we’re just waiting for confirmation now…” for WHAT, FOR WHAT???” “oh, it’s just come in, and it’s official…osama bin laden is dead!”
We were watching "60 Minutes."  They interrupted us too, but I didn't associate it with a death until they outright said it, "Osama Bin Laden is dead." well, you didn’t grow up a tv child, poor thing…a certain sound that presages “special report”, and/or “breaking news  means something terrible has happened, especially if my soap opera is broken into…that special music says: BRACE YOURSELF!!
for just a few seconds, I think I stopped breathing.
Is that what happened to me?  I know I was stunned-- relieved that the threat of the terrorist was over. But I felt a heaviness, a sadness, a not-too-sure-how-to-feel feeling,  Yikes! Where are we now?  It's like I've always felt about the big bad dictators of the world-- Idi Amin,  Saddam Hussein, Mugabe...  Why doesn't God take them out?  But if He doesn't do it,  is it right for us to do it?  I don’t recall any sadness. I was by myself, and I do remember giddiness and exclaiming out loud which I don’t do when I’m alone, something like “HAH!!!”that must’ve been the totally honest reaction; the one not colored by ‘what should I be feeling?” or ‘does god have a horse in this race? I don’t want him judging me for any horrendous judgments I may make in a weakened state! I’ve wondered, too, where god is in the matter of the idi amin’s and stalin’s and hussein’s, et. al. so often you’ve told me that god has the big picture and he has his reasons; we don’t actually need to understand what they are, we just need to accept them and recognize that god wants the best for us…to me this is a way big stretch, but I accept that YOU accept it, and the fact that you truly do, allows me to understand the concept of faith—you’d need it in spades to understand all that. at the same time you ask “if [God] doesn’t take [the evil dictators] out, does that make it right for us to do it? maybe, it does. you and I have often discussed that when god can’t make the rescue, he’ll often send a helicopter or rowboat: no? ‘course, I don’t think I’ve yet been the avenging helicopter…but whatever it takes, I guess!!
but, like you, I wasn’t sure what my reaction was supposed to be…would god get mad at me if I did what my 2nd inclination was…when the Phillies won the series,FINALLY—the poor phils who in my growing up won precious little, but I loved them just the same—and when that last pitch was thrown, my body, of its own volition, came flying off the sofa to the floor and my arms flew out in supplication…I believe there was a shouted, and rather loud ‘YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSS’  that filled the house, and perhaps the neighborhood. that, sort of, was my sense of things here, way down inside, AND YET…and yet…what would god think of my dancing on someone’s grave, no matter the circumstances?

I think among the most important lines in that article were these

“in jewish law we celebrate the ability to distinguish between light and darkness. In life we must know what is good and what is evil. Yes, we are commanded to remember that there is evil in the world, and not only are we allowed to celebrate when it is destroyed, we must.”

bin laden teaches us this most important lesson, or at least reminds us, most clearly of its importance…it is very cleansing…and, now, of course, it’s nice to know that god approves…

how ‘bout if it were hitler? would I be weighing and measuring? does god weigh all lives just the same, at least in death? I wonder…I mean to say, once the guy’s down with a bullet in his brain, he’s kind of neutralized, isn’t he? likewise, hitler with a bullet similarly placed, is just as satisfactorily dead…and then he’s not really “HITLER” anymore, is he?,  just “hitler.” 
Interesting way to look at it.

actually I guess that what survives the killing is the mystique, and that’s a little harder to kill…you can’t just kill it; you must decimate it and make it feel as though if it tries to grow a new brain, you’ll kill that, forthwith, and just as brutally…so, we must learn a whole new way to be in order to deal with this new reality of war—i.e., war on our turf. as long as it could be on the other guy’s  turf, we could be philosophical and grown up about it….now they’ve gone and brought the war to us, and we have to learn to live with this reality…
I also saw that article I told you about, where the left-leaning Europeans were more than annoyed at our celebrations at ground zero.  But I noted that the reactons at those commemorations were mixed. There was the jubilant crowd, but also the silent crowd that came and stood and looked and said nothing. Reminded me of the time you took me there to visit about a year after the 9/11 event.  A lot of slow moving around, but almost  no sound at all.  It was eerie. it was extremely weird, and moving…and still, so many tears, and what could one say. a year had past, and the vast quarry was still gaping and filled with workmen, as silent as the onlookers. THERE was the heaviness…still too much sadness to even speak, only to move kind of woodenly around the several block chain link fence protecting the hole from tumbling onlookers, and providing a wall for hanging “missing persons” posters for people that some were actually still looking for—people who’d died in the world trade center; and for flowers and commemorations to brothers and sisters and parents and children whose family had given up looking…oh, man!  But then, Bin Laden was still out there running loose. We had nothing to rejoice about.  And now, do we have a reason to rejoice yet?  Or should we remain silent still?  all of what I’ve just written about ground zero was bin laden’s gift to us…so, you answer your question…should we remain silent? or may we be forgiven for something a little more—I don’t know, more obvious? what do you think?

 it made me do some thinking and I came to realize, you know, that in this war business, we’re newbies, and probably still very naive. think of how young we are as a country, altogether—we have fought amongst ourselves, in the civil war…but, in reality, compared to many of the other nations, we know nothing—we didn’t live through the blitz in London, or the bombings in Dresden, or the rape of Nanking—there are probably an untold number of “growth experiences” that we can thank god for not experiencing.
so now, as a “war novice” what’s my attitude supposed to be? when we cut the head off the enemy snake…am I allowed to gloat a little? or cheer? or would a simple thank god be more appreciated? I don’t know, I sort of don’t feel like a grown up, right now…I want, really, to dance and sing and celebrate…but, just not look like I’m doing those things…so maybe I’ll do them inside and keep a sober face…that might be the ticket, as long as god doesn’t ask too many questions…
Your honesty and openness here are really impressive.  I think whenever one of the Ten Commandments is so violently violated, it should make us sober.  Of course, that's why we were so upset with Bin Laden--he had violated the "thou shalt not kill" commandment repeatedly. well, I can’t quite look at it that way. I can’t measure him by my rules.  his rules incorporate 72 virgins, not 10 commandments. whether muslims follow a  golden rule, I don’t know, and I confess to a woeful ignorance in the matter of the quran. however, the important point, in my mind is that you can’t get mad at a dog for barking, or a cow for mooing. it’s unlikely that bin laden would religiously know any commandments…although, I’d think there’d be a constraint against taking lives in most common religions. and while killing bin laden, likewise, might be thought to violate our commandments, I’m guessing there’s something that covers it, and ends with “thank you, god!”  It was like a way of life for bin Laden. .  We've just begun to think this through and I'm not sure we'll ever find answers that will satisfy us all.  You and I were not responsible for the decision to blow him into eternity. Nor do we have a duty to decide how right that action was--or how wrong.  Or do we?  Is this another place where we need to speak up and be heard?  If so, what shall we say?  if I get to speak up here, I just have one word, since I’ve worked the rest of them out within these paragraphs: YIPPEE!!

1 comment:

Jane Carlile Baker said...

Ellen, all I want to say about this is I seriously want to steal your question. "Does God have a horse in this race?" Can I use it, please?