Our Best Selves

The news of Osama Bin Laden’s death at the hands of US special forces has dominated the news for almost 24 hours. If you haven’t heard yet, maybe you are just returning from a place with no TVs, internet, or access to the outside world. While I write a food blog, those who know me well know that my politics run deep and are interwoven with my true desire for liberty and justice for all and a commitment to service, be it through volunteering, donations, or just being a considerate citizen.

Where were you when you heard the news of Bin Laden’s death? We were heading to bed after a long drive from NJ when I saw, via my most reliable news source, Twitter, that the President was going to deliver an address at 10:30 Eastern time. Like so many of my tweeps, I started to wonder and feel a little fearful. Clearly, it was important if it couldn’t wait until Monday. Or maybe Obama really did want to interrupt Celebrity Apprentice to show the Donald exactly where his place is? Winking smile

Once the news was leaked on Twitter, and then officially announced by the major news stations (where the ever “on top of things” Fox news declared the death of “Obama Bin Laden”), my mind went into high gear and stayed that way all night long. The President was cool and composed as always. He needed not stand aboard an aircraft carrier declaring “Mission accomplished”, because he is smart enough to know that, despite this symbolic victory, our mission will be accomplished when US servicemen and women are no longer in harms way.

He did well to remind America that the war on terror is not a war on any religion, and I hope that all of the people who are afraid of a head scarf remember that.

The reaction that followed the news was emotional for everyone. Tweets and Facebook updates, comments on news articles all vowed to remember the victims of September 11, 2001, something that we all of course should do. But as I watched students invade the Boston Common, chanting “USA, USA” (and I would bet that there were some “Yankees Suck” chants because this is Boston, and there always are), visions in my mind flickered back and forth between that scene and scenes of crowds in the Middle East celebrating the deaths of those killed on 9/11.

From where we stand, watching those people carry flags, burn leaders in effigy, and chant, they are terrorists. And last night, from where they stand, so are we.

And as I read more and more, including an observation from this article, where a 22 year old girl celebrated with a Bud Light at Ground Zero, I wondered if much of the excitement and celebration was downright disrespectful. And sadly, exactly what much of the world expects of us.

I was a little shocked to see people so jubilant at the thought of the war on terror being over. I am more fearful now than ever before. Ten years of invasions and war, embargoes, and questionable interrogation in various jails, especially Guantanamo, while perhaps necessary, have also helped to amplify all of the conditions that force many of these people into terrorism in the first place.

Ultimately, trying to kill off all of the terrorists or terrorists-in-training and their families is not, in my opinion, ever going to end the war on terror.

Whether it’s the gang-infested streets of an American city, a marginalized neighborhood in Derry, or an extremist group in Gaza, the root of organizing for violence against others isn’t evil. It doesn’t always require “bad people” – it’s poverty, injustice, lack of education and opportunity, fear of the “other”, faced with the sudden opportunity to be a part of something. In some cases, people who know no better think that they are doing their best.

We can do better than that.

As the news went on and on and occasionally broke to detail the devastation of the storms in the South, I wondered if hatred and celebration of death, the death of anyone, is being our best selves or if, even in the excitement and awe of the moment, we could do better.

After the 9/11 attacks, we all had stories of coming together. Whether it was a shoe store giving free sneakers to women in heels fleeing the tragedy, or in my case, groups of college classmates comforting one another and giving blood, we were all one. Last night, we came together again; as Americans, can’t we come together more often than when something big happens?

I can’t celebrate someone’s death, even someone as awful as Bin Laden. Instead, my response is to think about how we can all be our best selves. We can give up our daily coffee and text the Red Cross to help suffering Americans, sort through our clothes and shoes to see what we can give up to drives for supplies, or box up canned goods and deliver them to our local food banks.

We can be better to each other, to our neighbors, families, and friends, to the man on the street and we can show the rest of the world that THAT’S what Americans do when the going gets tough. Rather than be the biggest or the most armed, hopefully someday it will be good enough for us to just be our human best.

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Tags: America, Osama Bin Laden, politics

  1. Michelle’s avatar

    This is such a wonderful blog post. I honestly felt so shocked by the amount of hatred and anger on Facebook today that I couldn’t even process how I felt. My friend posted something that really summed up how I felt today – “Do you think that I like to see wicked people die? says the Sovereign Lord. Of course not! I want them to turn from their wicked ways and live.” -Ezekiel 18:23

    Reply

  2. Michelle’s avatar

    Great post. My sadness today was because even after something that people in this country have been looking for, people can’t help but turn it into a political conversation. I was hoping for a day of unity, but unfortunately, each side is using this event against the other. Personally, I would love to see our country united, so that we can move forward.

    Reply

  3. Jordan’s avatar

    This is such a difficult issue. I appreciate your post and your perspective. (I have read your blog for a while … not sure if I have ever commented.) It breaks my heart that we may have been doing the same thing to someone else that they were doing to us on 9/11.

    I too was scared instead of happy to hear this news blasting all over the news last night. While there was something nice about seeing Americans happy and thinking families of victims may have closure after bin Laden’s death, watching people chant cheerfully in response to bin Laden being shot in a most likely brutal attack is heart breaking. I absolutely cannot listen to the news any longer asking millions of questions about how he was killed and would there be proof via photographs, etc. I guess it’s also just a humbling reminder that we, too, have a long way to go and a lot to learn. And eye for an eye makes us both blind … cliche, I know.

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    1. traveleatlove’s avatar

      Thank you for commenting. Might be cliche, but it is still true.

      Reply

    2. Megan’s avatar

      This is a really great post. One of my friends has an MLK quote on FB today (that I just noticed you put up too) that I think is a better way to think about these Bin Laden’s death. I can’t say I was shocked, but I was a little put off by the number of jokes about this on Twitter last night.

      Reply

    3. jason phelps’s avatar

      I agree on all fronts, except the one that what you are reacting to is somehow unexpected. This is who we are. Americans can say a lot of things about themselves, but thoughtful and understanding of the big picture aren’t really on the list. Our society doesn’t support these ideas with reality tv, sports fanaticism and obsessions with fame and fortune. We live in a sound bite culture that takes meaning off the table in so many situations. I think it sucks too but so many permit it that the rest of us must suffer.

      Jason

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    4. Kelly’s avatar

      Great post Meghan…. it really made me think. I have to admit I was a *little* happy to hear the news. I don’t know if I totally agree that killing someone with so much hatred who has killed so many others, is quite the same as killing the many innocent people in the attacks. But I do agree that celebrating is NOT the right reaction, and I thought that was pretty inappropriate.

      I think something that really put it in perspective for me was thinking about what I was going to say to my kindergarten students if they brought it up (which thankfully they didn’t!). I would never tell a kindergarten child that I was happy (or anyone was happy) about someone being killed. I would certainly never want them to think it was okay to celebrate. Instead I would want the lesson to be like you said, how we can be our best selves.

      Reply

      1. traveleatlove’s avatar

        Oooh I didn’t even think of what to say to kids. . .
        I absolutely think that he needed to be captured and/or killed, stopped at any rate. I just feel a little more somber than some, I guess!

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      2. alicia’s avatar

        I think you explain it so well. Last night when Rafe came to bed, he told me that OBL had been killed – my response “I don’t think the world has suddenly become peaceful”. I don’t celebrate death of anyone.
        I saw the MLK quote as well, and that definitely applies to the way I feel.

        Reply

      3. Raija’s avatar

        Really well said and very wise.

        Reply

      4. Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic’s avatar

        Great post Meghan and I think about the MLK quote as well. Death should never be celebrated.

        Reply

      5. Emily @ A Cambridge Story’s avatar

        This is a really productive post. I was truly surprised by the celebration and the partying that ensued after news of Bin Laden’s death broke. Personally, I did crack open a beer or feel that the war on terror is over (frankly, this event may invite retaliation) – but I can understand a sense of relief that families directly affected by 9/11 experienced. Unfortunately, we are far from having closed this chapter of our history.

        Reply

      6. MelissaNibbles’s avatar

        I’m not judging how anyone reacted to the news because I don’t know where they’re coming from. At this point, most of us know someone or have a family member fighting in the war. We don’t know what they face over there and how hard it is on their family. If they react with happiness that this man who is responsible for so many deaths and is responsible for some of the horrors they face everyday, so be it.
        If someone lost a family member on 9/11 and they’re happy to see the man who claimed responsibility is dead, I don’t blame them.
        I think we all know the war on terror isn’t over, but I think we all feel a little closure and relief that one of the leaders is dead.
        Also, MLK didn’t say that quote http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/05/out-of-osamas-death-a-fake-quotation-is-born/238220/

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      7. MelissaNibbles’s avatar

        I forgot to add that I do like the sentiment of this post and that you highlighted that we’re still facing our own devastation down south.

        Reply

      8. Daisy’s avatar

        this was beautifully written. you are so talented, Meghan. Thanks for your heartfelt thoughts.

        Reply

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