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Bill Sinkford: USA! USA! USA! May 5, 2011

Posted by chezanni in Uncategorized.
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By Reverend Bill Sinkford | http://www.firstunitarianportland.org/our-church/ministers-a-staff/rev-sinkford-blog

After almost 10 years, our nation was finally able to locate and kill one man, Osama bin Laden. Celebrations erupted spontaneously. American flags were waved, and crowds shouted “USA! USA! USA!” It was, I suppose, a victory of a sort. My reaction may well not be yours, but I found myself saddened rather than exultant.

Bin Laden was responsible for horrible acts of violence, the deaths of thousands of American citizens. If anyone deserved punishment, he did. If retribution was ever justified, it was here. But I take no pleasure in his death, especially if it becomes only the latest in a spiral of violence whose final outcome will endanger us all.

‎Martin Luther King, Jr., decades before 9/11, wrote:

“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.”

The news media has been filled with little else this week. The images of 9/11 have been replayed. The bravery and training of the Navy Seals who executed the raid have been lauded. Images of the compound near the Pakistani capital where bin Laden hid “in plain sight” for six years have been aired. Descriptions of the raid have been repeated again and again, with some interesting changes to the initial narrative. No, bin Laden did not use his youngest wife as a human shield. No one in the compound fired on the attackers. Obama’s decision not to release photographs of the dead body is the latest chapter in this drama.

What do we have to celebrate?

Are we safer as a result of this death? No. The wisdom of our military and Homeland Security leaders is that, if anything, we can expect higher levels of risk.

Is the celebration because our might and our money finally ended the life of one man? The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have taken more than 6,000 American and countless other lives. They have cost more than a trillion dollars. Is that cost/benefit a cause for celebration?Will this death signal an end to the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq? Does it point to a more peaceful future? That seems, at this point, very uncertain. I wonder how the images of our celebrations will be viewed and used in Arab/Muslim communities around the world. Is this the end of an era? Now that would be something to celebrate. We have lived through a decade in which fear and divisiveness have dominated our nation internally. The last ten years have highlighted the dangers and perhaps the impotence of our nation to impose our will, our political system and our “values” on other peoples, despite our military might.

Perhaps this death can help bring to an end our national narrative of victimhood which has been used to justify such violence. Perhaps we can embrace the new energy in the Middle East and North Africa. Country after country is striving to create a new future. Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, Bahrain, Yemen… The people of those nations strive for control over their destinies, for democracy and greater freedoms. In most cases, they look to us not to enforce regime change by military force, but for validation. This process will not be linear, and it most certainly will not follow any script of our devising. But there is hope in it.

Perhaps part of my sadness arose from hearing the news of this death just after preaching on militarism in our nation’s life. Perhaps the “gunfighter” quality of the raid tapped into my fears for our nation. It felt like yet another chapter in an outdated and dangerous narrative.

Perhaps this killing will result in a more peaceful future. If that comes to pass, and I pray that it does, that would be something to celebrate.

Blessings,

Bill

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