News and views from the award-winning author of the novels The Skinny Years, America Libre, House Divided and Pancho Land

Monday, May 2, 2011

Not a Time To Celebrate

The news of Osama bin Laden's death caught me totally unprepared. I imagine I am not alone. Osama bin Laden's name and face had become a relic of a time ten years ago when I was gripped by anger and anguish along with the rest of the nation.

After the shock of the 9-11 attacks passed, my reaction had been one of belligerence. I could not wait to fly again. I wanted the chance to show those fanatics who wanted to change my world that I would not cringe in fear. The depths of my hatred went so far as to imagine creating a cartoon of Osama bin Laden being sodomized by a pig. That's how angry I was at this man who had taken the lives of so many innocents because he felt morally superior to them.

Over time, that anger was tempered by the realization that there were leaders in the U.S. who were using these feelings of revenge to settle a personal political score with Saddam Hussein while deluding themselves with Clauswitzian geo-political claptrap. When the mission in Afghanistan was eclipsed by an unprovoked invasion of Iraq, the realization we were being hoodwinked was complete. I began to see Osama bin Laden as a dangerous lunatic made almost irrelevant by an equally dangerous foreign policy that would eventually cause many more deaths than the 9-11 attacks.

So the news of the bin Laden's death, while possibly the biggest story of this young century, seems empty of real consequence. (Somewhat fittingly, bin Laden's death overshadowed another gargantuan media frenzy devoid of any real meaning, the royal wedding.) Still, I was disturbed by the public reaction to bin Laden's death.

A death is never cause for celebration, even when the death is that of someone who had self-righteously ordered the deaths of thousands of innocents in the name of God. Most of those I saw celebrating were young people who were probably too young to grasp the tragedy of 9-11 when it happened and are too immature today to grasp how tawdry their behavior might appear to those who were truly touched by the suffering Osama bin Laden caused.

I cannot speak for those who lost loved ones in the 9-11 attacks. But I doubt many of them were among the cheering throngs gaily celebrating bin Laden's death like a college pep rally.

In reflecting on this act of justice, I'm left with the sobering realization that those who take pleasure in the taking of a life are only perpetuating the endless cycle of violence that has haunted our species and that we must eventually outgrow.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez