Source: The Guardian
This is one of those posts. The kind you don't want to write, but you know you must. It's like an itch on your brain, and the only way to get relief is to write.
This one has a long history, from September 2001, to May 2011, to just the past couple of weeks. During the New Year break, while my city was quiet and most of my friends were out of town, I blitzed my way through Season 1 of The Newsroom. It's very powerful, and the writing is incredible. There wasn't a bad episode in the bunch, and a couple of them knocked me off my feet.
Episode 7, simply titled 5/1, was the most impactful of the season. It detailed the events of the evening the killing of Osama bin Laden was announced to the world. In the show there are two primary settings. First is the newsroom, where Will, Charlie and Mackenzie are trying to confirm what they increasingly suspect is the reason for the imminent announcement from President Barack Obama. The second is the inside of an aircraft, where Don, Sloan, Elliot, and all the other passengers are stuck on the tarmac at LaGuardia, waiting for a gate.
The writing is powerful and subdued, and Aaron Sorkin covers the necessary symbolic bases subtly and respectfully. There's the aircraft setting. A young woman who lost her father when the towers collapsed is, because of circumstances, in the newsroom, as are two NYPD officers. One of the production crew puts on an NYFD ball cap as the announcement is finally made. It was all poignant and powerful, and I was moved as I watched.
And yet. There was an underlying current that deeply troubled me, and I was transported back to May 2011, when the announcement was actually made, and when I first felt the same unease, along with a whole range of other emotions.
Here's the thing that troubled me then, and troubles me now. Joy might be too strong a word, but it was the excitement, the happiness displayed over the death of a man.
Relief I can appreciate. Or whatever you call the feeling you get when you believe justice has been served. But back-slapping and celebrations are a whole other thing.
The death of Osama bin Laden did nothing to ease the pain and fill the void left in the lives of those who lost loved ones in 2001. The death of Osama bin Laden may have filled a need for revenge on the part of some, but it did nothing to serve justice. I would even go as far as to say that the death of Osama bin Laden did nothing to prevent further attacks.
What the killing did do, I will respectfully suggest, is inch the United States just a little further down a road I suspect most Americans would rather not be on.
Back in 2001 one of the statements made at the time, as an attempt to answer the question "Why?", was "They hate our freedoms." It was ridiculous then and it remains so. Yet, it serves as a kind of morose benchmark; scarcely more than a decade later many of those freedoms have been effectively dismantled.
Within a few days of watching that episode of The Newsroom I came across another item that reinforced this feeling. It was Desmond Tutu's letter to the editor published in the New York Times. He was troubled by the issue of judicial reviews for the targeted killing program of President Obama. Here's the devastating close of his letter:
I used to say of apartheid that it dehumanized its perpetrators as much as, if not more than, its victims. Your response as a society to Osama bin Laden and his followers threatens to undermine your moral standards and your humanity.
We can debate about the killing of bin Laden, about targeted killings, about drones, until we are all blue in the face. That's not my purpose here. Of course as regular readers will suspect, I see all this now through the lens of the evolution of human consciousness.
Whatever violence may have been in the past, I now see it--whether the violence of an Osama bin Laden or a President Barack Obama--as resistance to change, to growth, to evolution.
Two thousand years after Jesus signaled what the next step was to be by commanding us to love our neighbours, we might just be about ready to do it.
But somebody has to go first.
Everywhere we turn we are being presented with multiple opportunities to do just that. Look around. They're everywhere. In fact it's becoming so obvious, the only way to resist is to lash out in violence of our own.
All that is left to do is to wonder how bad it has to get before somebody, somewhere, turns the other cheek.