03MAY11 Osama Bin Laden is Dead, thoughts on vice and virtue in the wake of this historic victory in a long running war between the Free World and the harbingers of Tyranny.
Yesterday I indulged in a bit of vice in celebration of death; albeit a bit more solemnly than I have before (I didn't forget the lesson I learned cheering the death of Saddam while I was in Iraq...). My cartoon was a bit graphic, but a clear reminder of human mortality, as any one of us could be the man with a bullet in the head lying dead in our homes. Be it a death from pointless murder, to dying on the field of war (which Osama certainly did); we are dust.
This morning, while my children were sleeping, I at the tender age of 28 finally smoked my first cigar. I don't intend to make it a habit, and its unlikely I'll do so again either. In much the same way I was happy about Bin Laden's death, it started out tasting pretty good. Then, toward the end of the cigar, I got the woozy light headed feeling (perhaps I shouldn't have drank coffee beforehand!). Wrath and smoking, two vices; one I'm more prone to out of human nature, the other a lesson learned.
What can I take away from such experiences? Well, I'm sure both Chaplains I knew during my deployments would get a chuckle out of my experience here once Confession was over. After all, I should not celebrate the death of another human being no matter how vile they may be. I think Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. best sums it up:
"I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that"
— Martin Luther King Jr.
After fighting in the GWOT, you come face to face with the two sides of killing. On the one hand there is knowing that people who are trying to kill you and your countrymen are dead and no longer a threat, and it brings about the positive emotions all related to the 'job well done' after an operation, firefight, or foiled IED emplacement. On the other side, you have the “Gee, I just watched a human body cool on the FLIR” or “There was is a person somewhere in that burning car, glad there isn't much left to see or I might lose my lunch.” First the good taste, later the woozy light headed feeling and bitter taste of reality (which includes thoughts of your own mortality).
Already the pundits on both sides line up. On the one hand you have the people who are in the streets celebrating, and for the families of the 3,000+ killed in the WTC/Pentagon/Flt. 93 attacks, I'm not going to hold this against them. This is a day for closure for them. The man who was the primary suspect, and indeed confessed quite gloatingly, for masterminding and leading the men who carried out the attack is dead. A murderer faces justice, and dies by the tools of his own trade. I'm positive the SEAL or other Operator that killed Bin Laden is just as aware of how easily it could have been himself (and could be himself in the future). Then there are people lining up calling those out in the streets no better than terrorists themselves, this coming from the people who hate America anyway, so it comes as no surprise to me.
My cigar makes a good metaphor for my own emotions in this case. It started out tasting alright (it was a 'cheap' cigar after all, only $7.55, and thankfully it was a small one as well!), but by the end the taste and the smoke was getting to me a bit (yes, I just puffed at it and didn't fill my lungs with it, otherwise I'd have been puking...). The aftertaste is especially bad, and therefore makes it a habit not worth indulging in on a regular basis. I'm glad an enemy is a threat no more, but his death really isn't something to celebrate. It brings closure, but no real joy.
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