I am usually in bed by ten o’clock, just like many AARP card holders who are more than twice my age. As I slept, safe in my bed, President Obama announced that Osama Bin Laden had been killed. Six in the morning, I sat down with my usual bowl of hot oats and turned on the news. Somehow the sense of security I felt less than eight hours before had vanished. Steve and I sat in our home, paralyzed by the news and the emotions it unexpectedly brought.
Admittedly, part of me was relieved to learn that someone so evil was removed from this earth. Another part of me disagrees with the “eye for an eye” philosophy. Hoping to find another friend who shared the same initial thoughts, I logged on to Facebook. But what I found there made me all the more uneasy. My friends, people whom I respect and love were rejoicing in this moment. Now let me clarify, these were not expressions of relief or closure, but celebrations of an enemy’s execution. Frightening status messages and videos, filled with hate and extremist characteristics clogged my social media feeds. These couldn’t possibly be the people I grew up with, worked with, and connected with over the years.
I continued to read throughout the morning. I was saddened, disappointed, and angered by many reactions. So badly, I wanted to respond; but I remembered Mike Severy’s post about “sitting with the dissonance.” So I watched as I tried to sort out my own feelings. I stumbled across two quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and another from Jessica Dovey. Together these words summed up my feelings in words I failed to muster:
I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. [Jessica Dovey]
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. [Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.]
I was relieved when many friends asked me if they could “steal” these words so they could repost it. Many said that they also struggled with finding the right words to express what they were feeling today.
I am not very open about my political opinions, but I am choosing to share because this is so much more than that. This post isn’t about judgment or about me trying to tell people how they should feel– but about my own personal reflection. Maybe I am naive, but I cannot believe that retaliation will fix the world’s problems. Ten years ago, I can remember exactly where I was and who I was with during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Though I will never understand what it’s like to be directly impacted by these events, I was completely devastated– I know you were, too.
But the beautiful thing I remember, out of all the hate and fear, is the sense of unity and community that blossomed. We supported our police forces, firefighters, women and men in the armed forces. We cried together, we remembered together, and we tried to move on together. We were a community banded together by yellow ribbons and hope.
Though no act of kindness or forgiveness can bring back the loved ones who were lost, neither can an act of revenge.