When the twin towers fell, I was only in 1st grade. The photos that evoke tears in so many Americans, in all honesty, never registered to me emotionally; I look at them the same way a modern Christian looks at a cross (an image meant to create shock and horror, since it was a form of execution), I know what it’s supposed to symbolize, and yet I have no emotional reaction them. I remember my mom trying to explain the even to me, mentioning words like “Taliban” and “Terrorism”, none of which meant a thing to me at the time, as we pulled out of the circular drive of my elementary school. It was all a blur of strong parents wiping away tears and omnipotent teachers breaking down in front of their classes, who hadn’t a clue what was going on. Some of the older kids were informed of what had happened, but maybe they thought it would scare us too much, or maybe they figured we’d never really get it (which we didn’t), so they left it to our parents, all of whom picked us up early after school to tell us what had happened.
When I first heard the news of Bin Ladin’s death, I was overjoyed. A news junkie enjoying a quiet evening, I received a breaking news tweet saying that obama had called an emergency press conference to announce something related to foreign policy, I opened up my laptop and began searching for live streaming footage from the White House. Upon seeing on CBS News’s website that Bin Ladin had been killed, I immediately called my family, and began to rejoice, as would be expected. I’ve been waiting for this day more than half of my life, and to see it finally come is an experience beyond words. From the “War is Not the Answer” signs that popped up in yards and on bumper stickers, to the capture of Saddam Hussein (and the talk of why Bin Ladin still hadn’t been found), up until today’s events, I’ve been waiting for this moment to come. But as a lot of people, myself included, are forgetting, is that this evil man was a person, that his wasn’t the only life lost, including that of a woman used as a human shield. There is no victory without collateral damage.
I can’t help but wonder that the death of a human, no matter how terrible he was, can elicit such massive celebrations. I wonder if this is how supporters of Al Qaeda reacted to the news of the 9/11 attacks. When we forget the humanity in us, the humanity in each other, we see things like the horrors of September 11th. It’s natural for one to take some sort of comfort in the death of an enemy, but as we’ve seen over the past 10 years, the hatred of a particular, extremist group of Muslims has often grown and been distorted into a categorical hatred of all Muslims within the United States, outlining the hunger for an us-versus-them (or U.S.-versus -them) mentality among low-education Americans. We also forget that suicide bombers were once ordinary people: the easiest way to get an education is some Middle-Eastern and Southwest-Asian countries is though extremist organizations looking for recruits. In our War on Terror, both sides have lost track of our humanity, and the humanity of our opponents. Forget about Osama Bin Ladin, Terrorism, and Radical Islam: forgetting the significance of a life is what caused 9/11.
Check back in for more updates on the Bin Ladin story; results; repercussions; predictions.