The Monster in the Mirror

“…I despair that we as a country, as Nietzsche understood, have become the monster that we are attempting to fight…”

Reporter and author Chris Hedges and I shared similar thoughts after the news that Osama Bin Laden had been killed Sunday night.

It was one of those moments you wont soon forget. Years from now, just like September 11, 2001, you’ll be able to tell people where you were when you heard the news that Osama had been killed.

Most of us were probably in bed – I was just about to turn on a How I Met Your Mother rerun when I saw my Twitter stream become flooded with cheers of American pride and celebrations of the man’s death.

That wasn’t my reaction – not because I have sympathy for Osama, not because I don’t think his death is an iconic and monumental event in our countries history, but because I can’t help but think – are we any better than those overseas who attack our country? Is fighting violence with violence the only solution? Will this do anything but ignite even more hatred of America amongst other parts of the world, and what will that hatred spell out for you and I?

I guess, in short, I’m afraid.

I fear my own safety and the safety of my family, but I’m also afraid that as a society, as a country and as a nation, we continue to believe we must police the world, embrace that people must continue to die every day to preserve our freedom, and when all else fails, start blowing shit up and killing people off to “send a message” that terrorism will not be tolerated.

Are we sending that message? Or does everyone else see us to be just as barbaric and cruel as those who do wrong to us? And where will it end?

Chris Hedges, quoted above, goes on to share his thoughts on our response to 9/11:

“…the tragedy was that if we had the courage to be vulnerable, if we had built on that empathy, we would be far safer and more secure today than we are.

We responded exactly as these terrorist organizations wanted us to respond. They wanted us to speak the language of violence. What were the explosions that hit the World Trade Center, huge explosions and death above a city skyline? It was straight out of Hollywood. When Robert McNamara in 1965 began the massive bombing campaign of North Vietnam, he did it because he said he wanted to “send a message” to the North Vietnamese—a message that left hundreds of thousands of civilians dead.

These groups learned to speak the language we taught them. And our response was to speak in kind. The language of violence, the language of occupation—the occupation of the Middle East, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—has been the best recruiting tool al-Qaida has been handed. If it is correct that Osama bin Laden is dead, then it will spiral upwards with acts of suicidal vengeance. And I expect most probably on American soil. The tragedy of the Middle East is one where we proved incapable of communicating in any other language than the brute and brutal force of empire.

Did we teach this language of violence? Did it start with us? I’m not one to answer that – but we’ve time and time again resulted in responding to violence WITH violence.

Maybe I’m being naive to think that situations like this could be handled in another way – that somehow we could settle our differences without casualty. Maybe it’s the perfect fairy-tale world I’ve thought up in my mind that could never actually be.

But today, now that the dust has settled a bit from Osama’s death – I can’t help but to feel afraid about what will be the response to this and what path our country will continue to walk down.

“America, Fuck Yeah!” – It’s something you wont hear me cheer today. Not because I don’t love this country and the freedoms within, but because I’m not so sure events like this are anything to be proud of…

(Photo Credit)