Relieved, disgusted, hopeful, anxious, confused. I felt these and a host of other emotions Sunday night as I heard the news of the death of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. I felt relieved that this inglorious episode in my nation’s history might finally draw to a close. I felt disgusted at the hordes of people publicly rejoicing at the death of another person, no matter how deserving that person may have been of stern justice. I felt hopeful that, rid of its greatest advocate for chaos and violence, the world might begin to heal from the wounds of recent decades. I felt anxious that the remnants of bin Laden’s machinery might react in unexpected new acts of mayhem against innocent men, women and children. And I felt confused, not knowing exactly how I should be feeling at this moment.
Evidence would indicate that Osama bin Laden willingly established himself as an enemy of order, reason, freedom and democracy. He advocated violence over diplomacy and chose to murder noncombatants indiscriminately in his war against the United States and its allies. Of course, as history repeatedly teaches, the philosophies that generate such fanaticism rarely develop in a vacuum. In ways small and large, we are all complicit in the global systems that create movements such as al-Qaida.
I read one newspaper account that labeled current efforts to oppose these transnational military organizations as asymmetrical warfare. The pace of change in the ways humanity chooses to murder itself change faster than societies can ever hope to keep pace with them. So, as we celebrate another death occurring in the name of peace, I pray that we look forward to a future without war by any adjective. How can we hope for such a future?
- As individuals, identify and own the ways in which we contribute to the oppression and objectification of others, and commit wholly to the loving unconditionally.
- As communities, set aside false “us-them” dichotomies and recognize that achieving our human potential requires patience, acceptance, cooperation and understanding.
- As countries, make human welfare and happiness our highest priority over the acquisition of wealth and the use of power to impose our social, economic and political will over others.
- As humanity, respect the worth and dignity of all people, including their right to determine their own way of life, as well as our responsibility to answer others’ calls for humanitarian assistance and to sustain their basic human rights.
- As a world, explore ways to survive and thrive on this planet sustainably.
- As one mote of star stuff in a vast universe, open ourselves to experiencing the wonder and mystery of all existence, seeking out cosmic truths that rise above the boundaries of planet, species, nation, tribe, and body.