Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Psalmic Response

It seems that the last 24 hours has been taken up with processing the death of Osama bin Laden. With that, has come critique on all sides about that process. Or as one mom says to Michael Keaton in Mr. Mom, "You're doing it wrong."

I'm not opposed to critique, I hope that it allows us to adjust back and forth until we find what is the right way for us, as individuals, and as a nation. I am concerned about the shaming I've seen.

But as I've always said on this blog, I'm a fan of the real. What do you really feel? And I think most people are like that. I think that when we've felt offended, it was because we thought someone wasn't showing their deep feelings. The person chanting, as though at a football game -- was that their deep, introspective response, or were they caught up in group aspect? The person saying they grieved the death of any person -- was that genuine, or were they expressing what they thought they should feel?

Someone posted on twitter the John Donne quote about how "each man's death diminishes me." I must admit, I turned to The Husband and said, "I don't feel diminished by the death of Osama bin Laden."
Psalm 137
By the rivers of Babylon,
         There we sat down and wept,
         When we remembered Zion.
 Upon the willows in the midst of it
         We hung our harps.
That sock in the gut of watching the planes fly into the towers. That instant fear from those of us who had loved ones up in the air right then. The overwhelming panic trying to locate New York and Washington friends. I remember, after hours and hours of watching frantic friends and family members walking around New York with pictures of their missing ones, "Have you seen him? Have you seen her?" they implored on CNN, I remember turning the tv off and, exhausted, heart broken into dust, saying, "I just can't watch any more. I just can't cry any more."

We hung our harps on trees. We could not imagine singing ever again.

We had been in a fairy tale land where acts of terrorism didn't really affect us, and when they did, it was often terrorism that came from within. That was shattered. When we went to bed, we didn't know what would happen the next day. We were terrorized. We stocked up on duct tape and thick plastic for the vents in our homes, we were afraid to open any envelope.
Psalm 74
The enemy has damaged everything within the sanctuary.
Your adversaries have roared in the midst of Your meeting place...
They said in their heart, "Let us completely subdue them."...
  We do not see our signs;
There is no longer any prophet,
Nor is there any among us who knows how long.
  How long, O God, will the adversary revile,
And the enemy spurn Your name forever?
   Why do You withdraw Your hand, even Your right hand?
From within Your bosom, destroy them!
We wanted justice, we wanted revenge. We began doing the math, adding up the situation, realizing our part in it, realizing our actions had a hand in creating our destruction. It became complicated.

And the videos. Just when we began to relax, a bit, bin Laden would release another video, taunting us, the murderer letting us know he could still find us, still get us.

Years pass.

On Sunday night, when the news came, I was glad. Not for the death, but because he had been stopped. I think that most people who admit to being glad feel this. It's not the death, it's that he has been found and stopped. Certainly, there are others behind him who may continue in the terror. But not he.

I posted on Facebook "Psalm 18:37-40." I did this in no triumphant way. I thought it expressed something very human, and something some of us were feeling. The relief that we do have some measure of control. That we are not just fearful things that can be terrorized and refuse to respond.
I pursued my enemies and overtook them,
         And I did not turn back until they were consumed.
 I shattered them, so that they were not able to rise;
         They fell under my feet.
  For You have girded me with strength for battle;
         You have subdued under me those who rose up against me.
  You have also made my enemies turn their backs to me,
     And I destroyed those who hated me. 
I understand the love of humanity behind saying that an eye for an eye will leave the world blind. But I am not a pacifist. I believe that evil exists and if it is within our power to do so, I believe in subduing evil.

It gets complicated. What about the evil within, what about what our government does? I believe the easy answer is to say, "It's too complicated, it's too much to try and parse, therefore, I'm just going to err on the side of loving everyone." Or we say, "It's not complicated, what we do is right, period."

Ours is not the easy way. Ours is the painful, complicated, messy way. A weakness in liberal religion is when we don't address evil, when we just explain it all away, and act as if we can just love it out of existence. I am a profound believer in the power of love. But I believe that one way we love is by standing up to evil, whether it be a multi-national corporation or a terrorist leader.

We have seen some crass examples of mob mentality in the last 24 hours, as people find their own catharsis of the last decade. But I saw one moment, right after the announcement, that spoke to me. They had begun gathering outside the White House, and were singing:
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Triumphant nationalism? Maybe. But in that moment, in the dark, it seemed more a cry of relief. Our flag was still there. We still have the right to defend our country. If you attack our country, kill our people, we will respond. We are not powerless against those who would destroy us.

We will go through our period of catharsis, and then it is time to get to the real work, of examining how what we do affects the entire web of existence. How we create terrorists and dictators by seemingly small actions.
Psalm 122
or the sake of my brothers and my friends,
         I will now say, "May peace be within you."
    For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,
         I will seek your good.


DairyStateDad said...

Wow. Just...wow. Thank you for this.

Lilylou said...

Well said, LE, well said. My thoughts too.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Will Shetterly said...

"If you attack our country, kill our people, we will respond."

I think Bin Laden said the same thing.

Sara said...

Thank you for expressing the complicated nature of it all so well.