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Some Thoughts: A Day To Remember?

posted May 10, 2011, 6:44 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Oct 22, 2011, 10:58 AM by Golden Knight ]
Posted in World

By Christian Romo
In the top of the ninth inning of a Sunday Night Baseball matchup between the Phillies and the Mets, the broadcast was interrupted by broadcaster Dan Shulman for a breaking story. Shulman stared directly into the camera and relayed a breaking feed from his headset. “Osama Bin Laden is dead. Turn to your local ABC affiliate to hear more about the story.”

Within seconds, the news permeated throughout the crowd at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, and what started as uncoordinated patriotic chants from pockets of the ballpark turned into a chorus of nationalistic joy. Announcer Bobby Valentine, certainly not the ideal candidate to guide a national audience of baseball fans through an event of such magnitude, calmly pointed out that this would be a moment that no American will soon forget. It’s even possible that as an American, we will always remember where we were when Osama Bin Laden was killed.

Really? I certainly would like to remember that moment forever, but only because my beloved Mets scrapped out a 2-1 victory against the hated Phillies and their ace Cliff Lee. Upon first learning of Bin Laden’s death, I was slightly stunned, but not nearly moved to the level of an event like September 11th itself. Hearing the hometown crowd shout “USA! USA!” gave me a much bigger sense of nausea than pride. The last time I heard that chant, President George W. Bush was landing on the U.S.S. Lincoln under a “Mission Accomplished” banner in 2003. Before that, it was chanted amongst the smoke and the rubble at Ground Zero hours after the attacks. This particular chant does not evoke the proudest memories in my mind.

To set the record straight, I do believe our world is better without Bin Laden capable of doing harm, but I worry when Americans can only come together in moments of communion when people die. Recently we have seen moments of unity and solidarity in Egypt, Haiti, Tunisia, Japan, and Libya. Some of them have been inspirational uprisings over tyranny, while others have been heart-wrenching responses to natural disasters that have caused devastation the world has never seen. While I’m glad our recent moment of togetherness hasn’t been caused by a devastating event such as Hurricane Katrina, I’m disappointed in the uniqueness of our situation. The entire country is celebrating because someone has been killed.

In his speech to the country, President Obama said the following: “…we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al Qaeda’s terror: Justice has been done.”

Retribution is not justice; the two should never be confused. I have no doubt that the families of victims terrorized by al Qaeda felt satisfaction when Bin Laden was killed, but in a year when there’s still an empty spot at the dinner table, the thought that Bin Laden’s body is rotted at sea won’t give anyone much comfort. That isn’t to say we shouldn’t celebrate the moment we have been waiting for a decade, but we shouldn’t assume our efforts in the healing process are finished. There are still firefighters and other first responders waiting for healthcare following their heroic struggle in the aftermath of 9/11. There are still children who will never see their mothers and fathers and there are still parents with children sacrificing their lives to ensure the freedoms we take for granted.

There is nothing inherently wrong about flag waving or patriotic slogans, but we need to be careful at which points we choose to implement our nationalism. On the same weekend Bin Laden was killed, over 300 people lost their lives in the South facing the most vicious tornadoes the region has ever seen, yet the top news story of the week was a debate whether President Obama should release pictures of the Navy SEAL’s operation.

Osama Bin Laden is gone, and all of a sudden al Qaeda’s influence in the world dwindled. It’s a moment where we can take some pride, but our national celebrations shouldn’t be dependent on violence and the exercise of our superiority. We are probably safer as a country, but we still have a lesson to learn, and I’m not sure we’re better off right now with Osama dead.