I thought that the news that Osama bin Laden had been killed by United States forces would bring the country together — for just a moment. I didn’t expect a complete breakthrough or hiatus from the nit picking and name calling, but I thought it might be an opportunity for us to heal some of the divisiveness that has taken hold of this country. I thought we might feel inclined to stand together, to feel united, to feel once again like a brother-and-sisterhood, much like we had when we watched in collective horror as the Twin Towers in New York, the Pentagon in Washington and Flight 93 in Pennsylvania were used as weapons of death and destruction, compliments of bin Laden.
But, alas, that does not appear to be the case. First thing this morning I began to read and hear not celebratory postings, not even many “job well done” but rather more of the same — accusations of not giving credit where credit may have been due, verbal attacks being slung back and forth between those who still see themselves as separate and divided, usually down some kind of political lines.
It sickens me. We are ripping this country apart at flimsy seams we have created ourselves. Even in the face of completing a task that has eluded us for over 10 years we cannot muster the compassion to put our silly arguments and fault finding aside long enough to simply be Americans. No, we have to keep picking at the wounds we ourselves have inflicted. One side must feel superior by making the other inferior. We equate intelligence with arrogance if we don’t like what we hear. We hide our prejudices behind thinly veiled accusations and we hear enough gibberish over and over to begin to believe it, even if evidence to the contrary is staring us in the face.
I am never a fan of killing, but not even I am naïve enough to believe that bin Laden would ever be taken alive. There was no dead or alive option in the hunt for him. So when news came that he had been killed, I struggled with my own feelings about reverence for all life and acceptance of this particular death.
What tipped the scales for me was the belief that the families of those who lost loved ones in the attacks on September 11, 2001 might feel as though some justice had been served by bin Laden’s death. If that’s the case, then they certainly deserve that moment. What I am now struggling even more with, though, is the inability of so many to be able to set down their differences and to stand together, to remember how it felt when we were able to do that after that day when the black smoke rose in three locations in this country and we lost thousands of our citizens. At that moment we knew that together we could heal; together we would move forward and together we would do our best to protect each other – no matter what it took.
What happened to that American Spirit? What is happening to us that we can’t rise above political pettiness and our differences, perceived or real, to rally as a unified whole?
A part of me wonders if we simply don’t need a bin Laden any longer. After all, we are now doing to ourselves what no terrorist mastermind could ever even dream of achieving. We are destroying our ability to be “one nation”, to be a people who can stand shoulder to shoulder in tragedy, as well as celebration.
If I am so naïve as to believe that we might still have that in us, then so be it. I would prefer to be naïve than to be so jaded or so prejudiced that I refuse to accept that we might find that unifying spirit again. I just hope we can find it without tragedy being our trigger.