Plenty of time this week to collect my thoughts –none however to put those thoughts in the bucket that is this blog and sift through them. Of course, my week started like yours, with the news of the death of Osama bin Ladin. Eldest daughter called up to us to tell us to put on a network because we were watching Iron Chef or some such. Eldest joined me, husband and middlest in front of the living room TV and we waited as the predictions rambled on and we all sat, baited breath, for the President to stride toward that podium.
I went to bed that night not really feeling any different–though I felt myself wondering why he was to be killed and not taken, but not enough. I saw the people streaming to the White House on the news and heard the cheers and wondered: is this the right response to the news of the death of another person (remembering, too, that others were killed).
Over the next couple days I checked in on FaceBook and the blogs and saw that there was a range of emotions out there–not many of which I shared.
On Tuesday we went to my youngest daughter’s track meet at the middle school and a friend from church sat with us (her youngest, too, was competing). We all were there–eldest, middlest, husband and I–huddled against the cold and the wind of a not very May day. My friend asked if I had seen the piece in the newspaper about Nathan, who had grown up in our church and went off to college and was in the first wave of students who showed up at the White House and who felt very comfortable cheering at this news. When I quietly noted my surprise–not shock, not outrage, just surprise–my friend agreed. And then eldest daughter joined in by saying something like “We grew up being told he was the worst man ever, of course we would celebrate.” Okay, I thought. Okay.
Next day I received a poem from my mother with the refrain “we’re all assassins now.” Okay, I thought, okay.
Perhaps this is another “sandwich generation” moment–which requires me to take some time and evaluate all that I am thinking and feeling–and all that is contradictory in all that I am thinking and feeling.
Not everyone lives comfortably holding beliefs and feelings that are contradictory. I would offer that I don’t either. But I know the territory. It is my home. I can sit here thinking “the death of one diminishes us all” and still feel undiminished by the killing of Osama bin Ladin. I can agree, theoretically, that this was an assassination and we, by our ideals as Americans, should not be in the business of assissination, and still feel okay with taking part in this one. I’m not saying I’m right and everyone else is wrong, but I am saying that these things can be within me at the same time and I will not explode.
But I didn’t grow up in the post 9/11 America. The fears our children have lived with under the surface are not our fears and I don’t think we will know what these ten years of their formation has done to their future lives for many years to come. Sometimes you just need to talk to a kid to understand that there are always different perspectives–and I wonder if those who don’t have teenagers and young adults in their lives to snap them into a different perspective can hear that a depth and breadth of listening needs to be happening now.
As usual, there’s more talking than listening going on and more judging than any of us needs. I loved Lizard Eater’s post this week. I loved how she can pinpoint the complexity of it and allow us all the space to be okay with our own feelings. I also found the Rev. James Ford’s reflections on FB and on his blog helpful–to have a Zen teacher reveal his own feelings and that he is not especially proud of them allowed me to not run away from nor shame myself for feeling less than concerned about this particular death and the way in which it was played out. For me, there is the reminder:
Well, again, as I hoped to point to originally, these are examples of how we are all caught up in the great mess together. We are one body, you and I, in all our separateness. Both and. The mysterious manifestation of the real. For good and for ill we’re tied up together, woven out of each other. Mr bin Laden is part of us, part of me, part of you. Even as each of us is responsible.
This is the hard part–and this is also the easy part. I’m not saying that I am bin Ladin–but I am saying that his life, his actions, his death are now a part of the story we all will tell of our own lives. He has been for ten years–I just didn’t know it so tangibly as I do now. We are all impacted by all of this and by each other’s actions. And we may very well all be assassins now. But if we travel down this path too far, we we also not find we have been all along? Does this mean we are all revelers, too–holding our flags and being glad in the face of a killing. Does it also mean that we are not also all connected by those who hold us to our ideals and find fault?
This being human stuff is just so darned complex and requires so much of us. It’s a wonder we all get out of bed every day and build buildings and buy coffee and show up together to worship. But we do, and on good days, we do it with open minds, open hearts, and a willingness to hold conflicting thoughts and emotions at the very same time.