Some days have now passed and I am heartened to note that I was not the only one disturbed by the many raucous public celebrations of Osama bin Laden’s death. This gives me hope, and the space to reflect more deeply on my own initial response.
It was so disheartening to be reminded, Sunday night, of those aspects of human nature that are “coarse”. I saw mirrored in Sunday night’s collective, vengeful, jubilation, the same stuff I saw amidst the crowds gathered almost ten years ago, half a world away, when my home-town lay blanketed in the dust of thousands.
I was as horrified and deeply saddened this past Sunday, as I was back then. And in both instances those reactions quickly took the shape of judgment (which feels much better than shock or grief or fear).
But over the past two days it has been becoming increasingly evident to me that judgment is, in and of itself, a kind of – bear with me – violence.
Far too often judgment does manifest externally, resulting in flames and ashes, wounds of the flesh, and the sense (right or wrong) of “justice accomplished”. (The kind of thing you can count on seeing, over and over again, on Fox news.)
But often it remains unseen, hovering around us like a cloud of distraction, giving rise to all sorts of physical ailments (sleeplessness, headaches, ulcers) on its way to infiltrating and hardening our hearts and minds with angry self-righteousness.
And that’s what I’ve been experiencing these last few days.
As I sat in judgment of those, Sunday night, whose celebrations were an expression of their own judgments of a people who feel they have cause to judge this country – I was caught up in the violence!
And violence is part of human nature.
And it’s so hard to be reminded of that in others and in ourselves. And, to keep our sights on that part of human nature which allows us to temper the urge to celebrate an enemy’s death, or condemn those who do.
It’s hard! But that ability is also part of human nature.
And it’s one I recommit myself to today.