I guess I have to. What else is on our minds in the last 24 hours (well actually many other things, but not of this import).
He is dead and I watch with wariness and curiosity how we deal with that. On the whole I have been impressed at the discussion. Emotions are of course very high, but the coverage and the conversation have been remarkably sane, fair, even thoughtful.
I can’t help but look at his face (which even in recent photos has a remarkable softness and apparent kindness to it) when he was a young child on a family excursion to Sweden. Granted his family was not your typical one, but when you look at the faces they seem like people you would want to meet.
What happened to him? What made him feel that the only way to serve his God (who happens to be mine too, and that of all Christians and Jews) was to kill? I don’t believe he was born evil in the way, for example, a serial killer is…whose illness is often apparent from a very young age, visible in subtle behavoirs. I don’t believe Osama tortured puppies or raped his first girlfriend or… I believe he was probably a very fine boy, even a fine man… Until. Until he embraced the extremist views which twisted his head in so many directions that he lost touch with what is good and what is bad.
Extremism is the evil… not Islam, or Christianity, or Judaism, not even Osama. Yes, he was the symbol of what many mistakenly believe to be the evil nature of Islam, and how very wrong that is (just witness the millions of peace-loving Muslims throughout the world).
I am not happy that he is dead. I am sorry he ever became what he did, that he wreaked such death and destruction under the guise of faith…in what?
For some reason today I thought of a film I saw many years ago called “Behind the Sun” (original title, in Portuguese “Abril Despedaçado”) which haunted me. Thankfully today’s events enabled me to find it again. It is the story of two families whose blood feud goes back and forth in a terrible eternal battle where both lose, or, as one reviewer on the Amazon page for the movie put it so perfectly:
The film’s thematic message, I think, is that embedded tribal conflicts based on ethnicity or religion or, in this case, some overblown concept of “honor”, are almost impossible to resolve rationally and peacefully. And the film goes on to ask – and answer, in this particular storyline – the question of what must happen before the killing is to stop.
Religious wars have been going on since time began. Brutally. How can we break the cycle or can it really be broken? The key to peace is in somehow not fomenting conditions whereby people, young people, are drawn to the extremes. Perhaps the lessons we’ve seen in the “Arab Spring,” which this period of revolt and renewal is being called, prove just that. Give people food and jobs and above all hope and they will not be drawn to extremes.
But then again, Osama was a rich boy, who didn’t have to work. So he messes up my theory. Kind of. Something really went wrong with him. He was responsible for not only thousands of deaths but, as Obama so poignantly put it when describing the victims of 9/11:
…the worst images are those that were unseen to the world. The empty seat at the dinner table. Children who were forced to grow up without their mother or their father. Parents who would never know the feeling of their child’s embrace. Nearly 3,000 citizens taken from us, leaving a gaping hole in our hearts.
Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own. So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.