I’m in need of my own catharsis. It’s been a long day for me, as I wrestle with resume formats and stress and real world things, with the radio constantly on in the background. I know what I need is some words from my fingertips. Flow, words, flow.
On September 11, 2001 I had just started my sophomore year of college. I lived in the dorms in a suite style room with dudes I spent much of college with, as well as my girlfriend at the time. I don’t remember much that morning, just my suite-mate asking me if I’d heard the news, that a plane had hit the twin towers. This was only seconds before the second plane hit – which we saw on TV. At the time, I didn’t really comprehend what was going on – it was too big.
I remember snippets of the day. Not everything. Class may have been cancelled, but I recall it being held, which I still think was a good thing. Tragedy is better dealt with through some sort of distraction. There wasn’t much we could do in Marquette but give up our thoughts. I remember feeling angry at how many people were allowing the event to affect them so much – wasn’t that what the terrorists wanted? Wasn’t it letting them win if we cancelled classes and let our lives stop? Those were my thoughts at the time. I didn’t know what to do – looking back I realize I was as scared as everyone else.
But I do recall not being as surprised. The folks I met and saw who literally had no idea that people didn’t like the US? That people would hate someone simply for being American? That wasn’t surprising – I didn’t like the fact, but it was a fact. But I couldn’t articulate my thoughts well enough, so I spent a lot of time ignoring the event. It was too big. I was too young, even in college, to truly understand the scope of what was happening.
I was one of those folks furious at the Iraq invasion – having believed early on that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and mad we weren’t focussed on capturing bin Laden. I was far more vocal about this. Over the past ten years I have played plenty a part in the Political Left – it should come as no surprise I am somewhat liberal minded. But as far as 9/11, I processed it in my own way and let it it sit in the back of my mind. It’s how it happened.
Last night I was ready to close my TweetDeck and play video games when I caught a tweet about bin Laden. I don’t recall exactly, but I checked CNN and checked a few links and began part of the retweeting and replying that played a huge role in the news breaking last night. Note, my own tweets weren’t anything that helped, but Twitter played a huge role.
Anyway, the news hit me strongly. I had been very aloof about 9/11, very unassuming – almost hipster-like in my disregard for a monumental event. I thought I had it all figured out. Apparently, my own feelings can be confusing to even myself. A sense of calm satisfaction gripped me at the news. I felt like our nation had been bleeding since the towers fell, and this was the bandage we needed to heal. Oh yes, there is far more to be done, but the catharsis I felt must be nothing compared to those who knew and/or loved the victims of the attacks. I watched the celebrations with somewhat a less naivety than when I was in college. I understood those people happiness, though I didn’t share it.
I feel better, I guess. I feel like America’s never really found itself after 9/11 and this is a huge clue as to who we are again. I feel like a lot of people who really deserved it got a few moments of relief, and I can’t begrudge them if they are happy for it. I feel satisfied, proud of the President for making the type of decision we force our presidents to make, and I feel happy that a chapter in our nation’s history has ended – even if the next chapter could be very similar.
Happy I am not. I can’t smile and cheer about the death of someone, no matter how evil. In fact, the thought he was evil, as we think of it, is sorrowful. A rabid dog needing to be put down, I suppose. That’s how Jim Wright puts it, and it’s a good metaphor. But I do feel content, and I do feel safer – though we probably shouldn’t. But I do. And for a long few hours last night, Americans got to experience some news that I think made us all feel better as Americans.
To end, here are the two quotes that sum up my feelings best:
” I’ve never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure” – Mark Twain (though, I wouldn’t call it pleasure, either).
”I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr
MLK’s words speak best of how I feel. In a mansion in Pakistan, I think we’ve managed to light a candle for the world to look at, but that candle’s wax? Best not to think of it. I would never want another man dead. I know this about me. But like Jim Wright describes over at Stone Kettle, there are people who do what needs doing. There is a man dead. It is not my place to say if he deserved death or not, not my place by any stretch. If I think on it, I would have preferred capture and trial, but the outcome would be the same. A man is dead. And it may not be kind or nice, but I think the world is better for it.
EDIT: As you probably know, the above quotes aren’t real quotes. The first sentence in the MLK quote was added by a tweeter, but the rest is true. The Twain quote is just wrong. But I still think the words still carry weight.