The song was playing on the car radio when I got in to go to work this morning. It took awhile to realize that the radio station had been changed by my children the day before and thus was not tuned to NPR as it customarily is, but still.
How shameful, pride-filled, and arrogant the notes of that song seemed to me in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death. Along with that radio station totally ruining one of my favorite songs from high school, I find myself bothered today by exuberant celebrations and expressions of victory all over the news…all over my town. The way I see it, nobody has won here. Nobody at all.
I’ll allow that perhaps my ambivalence is fueled by the fact that I can’t understand the depth of grief and pain of those who lost loved ones in the 9/11 attacks. But I wouldn’t say I was ever completely unaffected. Along with the rest of America, I was jamming the telephone lines trying desperately to reach friends in Manhattan on on September 11, 2001, too. I cried tears of outrage and fear as I watched the footage of attacks over and over on television. I struggled to compose prayers and litanies to help my congregation connect with the comfort of God’s presence. I did all of those things. I may have even hung an American flag on my front porch, if I recall correctly. And I still feel, so deeply, a fundamental objection to rejoicing in violence and death, no matter whose it is.
I guess, honestly, my thoughts are not so much a value statement on who deserves to die and who doesn’t; rather, they are the basic conviction that the more we kill and hate, the more killing and hating perpetuate. How sad for us that we have created a world in which so much distrust pushes all of us to exert power in order to keep a tenuous upper hand—and that’s the best we can do in the absence of real peace.
Perhaps when we’re moved to mercy and generosity, when peace-making becomes as much of a priority as defending ourselves, when we put down arms and pray for peace and love in such an extravagant way that we change the whole world…perhaps then we will be the champions.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction…The chain reaction of evil–hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars must be broken.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.