Tuesday, May 03, 2011

in celebration of what?

So. Osama bin Laden is dead. I suppose it was necessary and I confess, I'm very
glad. I'm glad for Obama, for myself, and for my country.

Still, I am troubled by my feelings of elation, and not just because I worry
about reprisals from the other side. Each time I celebrate someone's demise as
an act of war, it seems to me, I am diminished. I become a little bit more like
"them," whoever that happens to be at any particular moment. Yes, I think my
feelings are human; but that doesn't mean I should be proud of them.

In high school, as I searched for my spiritual path, I was drawn to Judaism for
its compassion (in theory, if not always in practice). For example, I was struck
by the Passover seder tradition of purposely spilling wine during the ceremony.
There are a variety of explanations, but I liked this one best: we spill wine as
a reminder of the bloodshed on the other side. We do it as a reminder that we
ought not take joy in the death of our enemies. They are, after all, children of

Bin Laden is dead, and I'm glad. I watch report after report of crowds rejoicing
and I feel like cheering, too.

But after 9/11, I remember watching other crowds, far away, cheering the death
of Americans. I tell myself there's a difference. But deep down, I suspect we
exaggerate the distinction between Us and Them at our peril.

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