I wrote a friend a bit earlier this evening saying I probably wouldn’t comment on the killing of Osama bin Laden a day ago.
I’ve changed my mind…a little.
All day I kept thinking about the hit song from Wizard of Oz, “The Wicked Witch is Dead”. There are endless analyses of what L. Frank Baum, author of
“A Wonderful Wizard of Oz” in 1900, might have been trying to convey in his characters and his story. I won’t enter that fray. The song did keep coming back to me.
The crowds celebrating the death of bin Laden last night and today reinforced the celebratory nature of the song.
Speaking just for myself, I believe President Obama picked the best of the bad options, and took a huge risk in opting for the mission into Pakistan. Close in mind was President Carter’s failed attempt to spring the hostages in Iran in 1979. So much is out of control in such missions.
This mission succeeded, with unknown future ramifications.
Oh that such decisions were to be easy.
I thought back to an uncomfortable conversation at the Nobel Peace Prize Festival a year ago.
At the neighboring table in the display area was a man, an Indian from India, who was a long-time and close advisor of Gandhi’s grandson. He was helping a friend of mine with her book selling.
It would be fair to say that he was extraordinary in all ways, including intensity. There was no escape from at least considering his line of reasoning. He didn’t expect agreement, nor did it seem that he necessarily even wanted agreement, but neither was it easy to wiggle-waffle around. He much preferred that the person be eye-to-eye and deal with whatever the topic might be.
He told me a little about himself, and then he circled round and presented a scenario, which I remember to be something like this: you are on your property, and you are approached by someone who you know to be very dangerous. You have a weapon, but you believe completely in non-violence. The person approaches the fence and shows every indication of doing violence not only to you, but to everyone else who also occupies your space.
“What do you do?“, he asked me.
I really had no idea what to say. By now, I was caught up in who he was, and who he represented, and what his life philosophy had to be, given he was apparently a disciple of Gandhi.
“What would he say?” I asked myself, hoping to give him an answer he himself would have given.
He knew I couldn’t figure out what to say, and he had me.
After an appropriate silence he gave his answer: “you must kill the invader if you can, because if you do not, he will do infinitely more damage.”
On one level his comment made sense.
On another, it still troubled me greatly.
But it seems to apply to the issue of the death of Osama bin Laden, though the long term implications of bin Laden, and war generally, is many degrees more serious, and no one knows for sure the future.
I’m troubled that people cheer on the news that somebody was killed.
On the other hand….