Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What Are We Celebrating?

You have heard that it was said, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth". But I say to you, do not resist an evildoer. If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. –Jesus speaking in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:38-39

When I heard the news about bin Laden an avalanche of thoughts overwhelmed me.
The first was wow! So he really was out there huh? The second was “good gracious they went in commando style to snuff him out!? What a smart move to not just haphazardly drop bombs. It makes it easier to identify the body that way.”

After all of the tactical and strategic thoughts flashed through me, my mind became ominously quiet. And in that quiet I could feel my soul.

It was hurting.

But why? Did I feel sorry for this man? No, I did not. He did many things to earn that comeuppance. As the saying goes, the chickens come home to roost. It doesn’t matter who you are, eventually we all have to answer to our actions.

But still, I was hurting, so I prayed about it. And after a short while of prayer and reading the news it hit me. It was the celebration of his death that made me sad.

Don’t get me wrong. Of course I understand why folks were happy. His death provided a tremendous sense of closure not just for our nation but also for many others around the globe. America was not his only target. There are countless other folks, some Muslims included, who personally felt the effects of his schemes.

But there was something disheartening about celebrating another person’s death. What does that say about us? What does it say about the condition of our hearts and spirits that we can rejoice in the death of someone, even if they hurt us? To be honest, I’m not sure that it says anything more than the fact that we are human. We feel, we love, and in so loving we want, desperately, to protect those that we love.

And when someone hurts those that we love, we want them to hurt.

When I was a kid growing up in southern California there was a ton of gang activity. It seemed like every single night you could turn on the news and hear about a drive by shooting or some other random act of gang violence. Soon, this culture of revenge became popularized and celebrated by some of my favorite artists in the music that I loved, Hip Hop. Now, when I listen to those songs that so joyously rapped along with, word for word, as a kid I get that same twinge of pain in my soul that I felt when I heard of bin Laden’s death. And that pain that I feel is all wrapped up in one question:

When will we stop?

When will we stop the cycles of violence that seem to characterize our identities? Folks in the hood sported red and blue. Folks cheering at the White House were sporting red, white, and blue. One group rocked bandanas and the other rocked flags. I can’t help but to see it all as just some gangsta shit.

Maybe my vision of a world of peace is something that is impossibly naïve, but it is a world that I believe in. It takes unthinkable courage to live by Jesus’ challenge to turn the other cheek. After all, how long can we bear to turn our cheeks anyways? Do we turn them in the face of death? Gandhi did, Martin Luther King Jr. did. And so have countless others of many different faiths and backgrounds when presented with the choice between fighting back with their fists or fighting back with their hearts.

This is not a critique of Obama. I think he did an amazing job in the way that he thought out this process strategically and dare I say morally. If I were in his position I hope that I could have made those series of decisions even half as well as he did.

But for some reason I cannot shake that feeling in my soul. It hurts, not for bin Laden, but rather, for all of us. 


  1. beautifully said, Clarence....xoxo

  2. I had mixed feelings. I'm not sad that he's dead (assuming it's true), but I can't rejoice in his death or anyone else's for that matter. It doesn't change anything. Not a single soul that he took will come back. To that, people will tell me that I don't get understand because I've never experienced what it feels like to lose someone to violence. Um, well, I do. My brother was brutally murdered almost 8 years ago and his killer is in prison. But whether his killer is dead or alive makes no difference to me. It won't bring my brother back. It won't change absolutely anything for me. If anything, his being in prison for the rest of his life makes me sad. He's a young man and hasn't experienced anything and never will. That's his life.

    So...Osama being dead? I can't rejoice in that. I'm not sorry that it happened. But I can't rejoice.

  3. @Marisa Thank you for sharing that. What you wrote made me think of a recent article written about Chris Paul. His grandfather was brutally killed when he was a senior in high school. Now Chris Paul only wishes the best for the lives of the killers. Amazing story of graceful forgiveness.

  4. Hey Clarence. Emme here. Your post is heart and thought provoking, thank you. Just yet though, I can't get into those spaces simply 'cause it's all so suspect to me.

    This announcement-of which there's been no proof, happened the same day Bush declared "Mission Accomplished" on the U.S. Abraham. This happens just shy of the president's bid for another term. The reports are that he was just outside the base?

    Just all to clever and I'm waiting for the world to catch up.

    If for nothing else, you and the rest of us are only in for a lot more hurting. If the cat has been killed, the mice are now willed. No good my friend. Here comes WWIII.

    For the record, naivety took Pandora to the box. We've got to fuel the hope with action, not yes we can but yes we will. I'm with you. The more portals of light made available to us all, the easier that dream will really be.

    Keep it goin, you're definitely helping us all along.

  5. Hello Man of God, Great post!!! Although I won't go too deep, I'll just say I'm torn for several reasons that I cannot share, but I absolutely agree with the thoughts of compassion of another living soul.

    Its just wrong to celebrate the "murderous death" of anybody. As you can see, I am totally against the death penalty. My view is nobody has the "RIGHT" to take another persons life.

    NOW we're playing GOD...


  6. Hey dude. Long time no hear from. Glad to see you're still thinking and provoking thought (and hopefully prayer) in the rest of us. :)

    I had mixed feelings about this myself. The pragmatist in me (who usually takes center stage, shoving the Christian in me out of the way far too often) really is glad that the man is dead. Not glad in a way that celebration is warranted, but in a more somber way, I suppose. He can't directly hurt anyone anymore. He can't directly contribute to his cause. That's a good thing (I won't bother speculating about the backlash and all that). I(pragmatist) am totally comfortable with society removing cancerous folk for the good of all mankind. I(follower-of-Jesus), on the other hand, am not at all comfortable with the joy with which the news of Bin Laden's death was received. The cheering and festivities struck a chord with me as well. I think it's a good thing (for the world) that he's gone, but the reaction to the news was strange. I don't know that I have (or will) ever celebrated anyone's death. It's one thing to be glad that they're gone, but it seems (to me) quite another to celebrate their passing. Anyway - I don't know that I have anything to contribute (your post is strong!), but I thought I'd chime in in agreement and say hello, at least. Hope you're doing well. Don't be such a stranger, eh?

    -Gentre (aka: Mamute)

  7. I also had mixed feelings. I felt happyness for those individuals who lost family/friends on 9/11. It's more than comprehendible that on monday night they were filled with a little bit more satisfaction. In my opinion though, celebrating his death was a little too much. I wasn't one to get up off my seat and beat the drums to his passing. I actually still don't get what did those people at the white house who were celebrating get out of it. They were acting as if this war was over. When our country still has to be on it's toes. Awesome read for sure! Most definitely passing this on.

  8. @Emme yeah...I feel you about the details tho I don't think there is anything that can be done to make folks believe it for certain. Even so whether it is true or not I am still conflicted. The thing that I'm focusing on is that the only person I can control is myself. Kinda puts those theories into perspective. I no longer fear what I cannot control. I let God do that.

    @Nicole. Yeah there are plenty of reasons to be torn on this... That's for sure.

    @Mamute what up man! Thanks for your words. I have that same internal struggle between the pragmatist and the Christian in me. It's like a battle beween the mind and the spirit. I'll have to come around sometime soon man. I hope all is well!

  9. @Jose thanks! And I agree. It aint over....whatever it is that we are doing.

  10. Hey Clarence,

    Thanks for sharing this. This announcement kind of brought me back in time to when we were in Brazil and heard the news about 9/11 and saw people on tv rejoicing about the attack. Now it's the US who is cheering for death. Once again, I find myself overseas when something big like this happens, and I can't help but be embarrassed about our country's reaction.

    Something that really got me was Obama, a Christian (and the same guy who won the Nobel PEACE prize!!), saying that killing was the right thing to do. Who does he (and we, in turn) think he is? Like Nicole said, we shouldn't be playing God. I don't care what the hell someone did- killing them does nothing to right past wrongs. Everyone killed on 9/11 is still very much dead.

    If anything, I think that it would have been better to take Bin Laden and try to open some kind of dialogue with him. IMAGINE!! Talking to our enemy and trying to understand him!! Now THAT would be the work of someone who deserves the Nobel Peace Prize!! By just blowing his brains out, all we did was show that we're no better than he is. We had a chance to rise above violence and hate, but all we did was just sink to the low of violence instead of opening a new chapter that really could have led toward world peace. What a sad missed opportunity.

    As many have said, his death means nothing in the way of stopping terrorism. We can't just magically feel safe now that he is dead, because he has followers out there. His murder was senseless, just like all of the murders that he ordered.

    I agree with you and I can't celebrate death. Hearing the USA! USA! chants on CNN made me think of the Wizard of Oz where all the munchkins are singing "Ding dong the witch is dead." What an eery echo of the present situation- and instead of being munchkins, we're small people who lack courage. Small in faith, small in dignity, small in compassion. Small in empathy. Small in forgiveness.

    Thanks for sharing this blog post, Clarence. Even though you're thousands of miles away, the power of dialogue with you is still just as strong as when we were in Salvador playing dominoes and talking about everything with our fellow housemates. Keep fighting the good fight.

  11. @Alex...

    First of all hey!! I'm so happy to hear from you. I hope that you are doing well. We need to catch up soon.

    Yes, I too was brought back to our time in Brazil when we heard about the attacks as we were being driven around Fortaleza on a tour of the city; but, I had totally forgotten about the images of folks cheering in the streets! The irony is almost painful.

    I totally feel you on dialog. I remember us talking about this that day almost 10 years ago (it's crazy to think that it's been THAT long!) when we were all reflecting on the crazy events. We asked the same question back then that you are asking now.. what if we used this as an opportunity to dialog rather than lash out? What if we decided to seek out understanding rather than revenge? I wonder how different America would be right now.

    But, being president is a tricky thing. The President's job is to do what he/she can do promote the interests and the welfare of their citizens. I believe that part of that is guaranteeing our self defense... but like you I understand that we can do that in more creative ways than we have in the past. Sure there are all kinds of competing interests that may want to promote some unsavory paths of action but strong leadership is about doing what is right.

    It will be interesting to see what we think of this time 20 year from now. What will hindsight's 20/20 perspective illuminate for us? How would we have done it differently if we were the ones making these decisions? These are things I've been thinking about since those Brazilian days back in 2001 when everything changed.

    All I know is that I can control me, and since I can do that I'll keep fighting that good fight along with you. If you decide that you want to be the person making these big boss decisions some day in the future you've got my vote my friend!!

    Thanks for reading! We gotta catch up sometime soon.

  12. Great read! I can honestly say I have no remorse for the elimination of Bin Laden, but I do share your naivety of wanting peace throughout the world (reference my thoughts on racism). I didn't so much celebrate his death, maybe a few jabs in the form of jokes (not proud of that), but I don't believe in rejoicing anyones death. I do wonder where the celebration for Timothy McVeigh's execution was back in 01. I feel the celebrating also carries some semblance of racism which I also can't condone. I'm happy justice was served, but you're right in pointing out our disheartening response to this.

    "If you sit by the river long enough, you will see the body of your enemy float by"

  13. Why cheer about Osama's death. This task could've been completed some time ago should the gov't so chose. There is a reason for the time being now. I don't though know what that reason is.

    Maybe a need to reallocate forces to Afghanistan or to the US for tornado disaster recovery efforts.

    Honestly, Osama was the head of the snake. I feel there really isn't any reason to celebrate when his replacement awaits in the wings.

    Socially it is improper to celebrate the death of another. Experience wise for many this death will create huge relief and release in there communities. Maybe it's not the killing that is being cheered but the ending to was Osama represented that is.


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