Tuesday, May 3, 2011

"To celebrate or not to celebrate?"

“To celebrate or not to celebrate?” That is the question.

September 11, 2001: I’m sitting in freshman Chemistry with several hundred other stunned students. The classroom projector flashes images of chaos on repeat. A plane hits a tower. A plane hits another tower. People are jumping out of windows. A tower collapses. The other tower collapses. Over, and over.

The video cuts to new footage from somewhere in the Middle East. Crowds have gathered in celebration. American flags and effigies are being burned. A woman, front and center, dances while exclaiming “LA! LA! LA! LA! LA!” at the top of her lungs.

For the first time in my life, the enemy has a face. I hate it. I hate them. I hate her. My rage is fueled by their celebrations.

May 2, 2011: Initially, the stateside celebrations ignited by the death of Osama Bin Laden had me torn between two sides of the same coin. The near decade long search for the leader of Al Qaeda is over. Good. But is it cause to run through the streets with American flags and bottles of beer, screaming and singing "Osama, Osama, hey, hey, hey, goodbye!"?

Should the answer be obvious? Has my distance from home desensitized me to the momentousness of the occasion? I don't think so. Instead, I believe the distance has provided me a new vantage point from which to view the actions of my fellow American's more critically (a more or less arrogant way of saying, “my ‘World View’ has developed.”).

So what do I see?

Never have our televised actions been more aptly represented by the parody on American patriotism, the movie "Team America: World Police", than now. And for the first time since moving to Uganda, I must admit… I’m embarrassed.

I am reminded of the video footage of “the enemy” the cheering crowds and the “LA! LA! LA! LA! LA!”-woman. I compare and contrast the memory with the exuberant partying of the last 36 hours. The only difference? Us and them. In my eyes, it has reduced the "War on Terror" to nothing more than a college football game: when they score, they cheer; when we score, we cheer.

But it isn't a game. It's a WAR.

Further, I am troubled by the implication of these celebrations (The head has been removed, so the body will soon die!). To this I suggest the following: more damaging to our society is not the inability to see the forest for the trees but the common delusion that a tree IS the forest.

Bin Laden wasn’t the Fountain of Terrorism. He was merely a vessel. "Ding, dong, the Witch is dead!" Indeed. But the evil lives on.

I digress. “To celebrate or not to celebrate?”… that was the question.

Well, if a leader is humble in victory and gracious in defeat, then a world leader is humble in victory and never accepts defeat. The common thread is humility. Thus, as representatives of the most powerful nation on Earth, we should act as such. Do we have a right to be happy that a battle has been won? Of course. But should that victory, the death of a single man, induce riotous celebration around the country that will only stoke the flames of hatred from our opposition?

Decidedly, no.

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