Killing Osama: Our joy reflects how afraid we really were

Two new movies, Seal Team 6, and Catherine Bigelow’s next hit, invite us to look in a mirror.

BY DAVID RICKEY — Yes, Bin Laden was a very evil individual who masterminded much and mentored many. However, his death will stop neither the consciousness that breeds terrorism nor the historic causes that feed that consciousness.

The decision to bury Bin Laden’s body at sea within hours of his death demonstrates, it seems to me, a level of sensitivity that counters much of the insensitivity that lies at the root of the present pandemic of terrorism (although already there is conflicting opinion and criticism for this action).

While there will always be people who express their selfish anger in acts of aggression against others, the “West” — that over-encompassing term describing what we might describe as the “more enlightened” people in Europe and America — would do well to reflect on our own actions over the past 3+ centuries that have contributed to the anger in Africa, the “Middle East” and southest Asia that underpin the terrorist argument.We have all cast stones

Eliza Griswold, in her excellent book The Tenth Parallel, catalogs the colonialist, missionary and political history of both Islam and Christianity in Africa and Southest Asia that fuels the present-day conflicts. Competition for resources coupled with an evangelistic zeal on both sides demonstrate a painfully slow evolution of consciousness that has kept us from finding peaceful ways of co-existing on this planet. From the yearning for an Islamic world order to concern for saving the souls of African “Pagans,” the human attempt to find a way of controlling others to ensure the survival of one or the other world view has led to seething resentment and ultimately senseless killing on both sides.

Look at our own national history. The capture and import of African people for slave-labor, the plundering of natural resources without concern for the people who already lived on the African continent, or the herding and killing of Indigenous people who already lived in this country that England, France and Spain claimed for their own. These are the facts to which angry people can point to justify their actions against us.

Forgiving the Unforgivable: A Soul’s Code Slideshow

As we breathe a sigh of relief at the death of Bin Laden, claiming justice being finally served, we need to look at our own actions of injustice and find ways of countering the effect of our history. Again, I see the decision to bury the body at sea as a symbolic act that could begin a more sensitive approach to world affairs — it might do much more to change our future than a continued “War on Terror” that seems to only reinforce the animosity. If we can demonstrate true concern for others, a desire to act in concord rather than continue attitudes of discord with other nations and peoples, we may be able to nurture the evolution of consciousness that seems to be taking a renewed surge in countries like Egypt, Libya, and Syria.

There is reason for optimism in the present turmoil. As America’s concern about having enough oil bumps into our concern for human rights and freedom on the public stage of media awareness, perhaps we are being forced to look deeper at our own values. There we might find more equitable ways to live together on the planet.

May the celebrations be sobered by contemplation! May this mark the end of an era and a milestone in human evolution.

David Rickey is an Episcopal priest, Soul’s Code co-founder and counselor in San Francisco who does a weekly ministry at a residence for the elderly in northern California. Follow David on Twitter.

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3 Responses to “Killing Osama: Our joy reflects how afraid we really were”

  1. There are many issues at play here and David has, as usual, shed an intelligent light on all of them. It is wise to learn from history, learn from mistakes that were made, but we also have to understand that people have free will regarding their behaviour. What makes one man a terrorist and one woman a saint? Life experience? Perhaps it’s an understanding that blaming others for where we are in life is a useless endeavour.

  2. Compare David Rickey’s essay, done within hours of OBL’s assassination on Sunday night, with Huffington Post’s version of the same — done 2 days later:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/pamela-gerloff/the-psychology-of-revenge_b_856184.html

    Sorry, I think David Rickey’s goes deeper, is spiritually smarter — and editorially better.

    Confession: I do have a bias :) But I would say the same if I were an editor at a 3rd party, and these 2 submissions landed side-by-side.

  3. Thank you, both Paul and Cyndi. America’s response to terrorism in general is pretty much “knee-jerk” – to attack back and feel defensive. And so our “Triumphalism” fits in, with little or no deeper awareness. Unfortunately, that response in itself, fuels the anger towards us – not that the “other side” shows much self-awareness either. But, if we were able to demonstrate our higher values, we might go a longer way to putting a crimp in the terrorist argument.