Epistle to Anna and Kenny in the wake of a justified killing.

Brother Kenny demonstrates why I have always found him to be an excellent conscience.
Sister Anna writes (from a longer email) ‘I’m afraid that the rippling sensations that I’m experiencing are those of panic, the sense that the hydra of war will not just keep growing heads but heads with extra teeth and fangs… …Any advice, Winston, for Left Coasters sensing the rumblings of doom emanating from other parts of the continents, the globe?’

I think that aside from the title of my previous post (which I didn’t realize was eight years to the day from when Bush declared those words when I wrote them, it just felt right) I didn’t engage in any untoward cheering over Bin Laden’s death because I don’t feel like doing that. I won’t and can’t criticize people who screamed their heads off and danced in the street  but I generally don’t criticize people who scream their heads off and dance in the street; I may critique them so that they may have better form and overall aesthetic theme, but I don’t try to discourage people from expressing their feelings. That being said, I must admit that I once got into a screaming fight with Lara in which I had taken the subtle and nuanced position that Bin Laden had forfeited his human rights and could be considered a wild animal that needed to be put down. I expressed it with alcohol and shouting at one of her office parties. It was actually a pretty spectacular relapse, come to think of it.

I have grown since those days. Still, I think this was a justified action. It should be of interest to note that no torture was involved in the intelligence work that found Bin Laden. Torture is not merely morally wrong, it is ineffective. I’m not trying to say that by pointing out that no torture was involved in the assassination of Bin Laden is what makes it a justifiable act, but it doesn’t hurt.  That being said, I must admit I agree with the scripture you quoted, Kenny; it is foolish and wrong to gloat, and it would have been far better for the world if Bin Laden had repented and turned himself in. However, the likelihood of the latter could be measured on the Planck scale so a little of the former can probably be excused. I will not wring my hands over it in any case. The moral principles that guide individuals are not always pragmatic in the face of global realpolitik situations confronted by nation states. Or viewed another way, from the moral perspective of the ultimate decision-maker, in this case, President Obama, there was no real non-violent option on the table. Unless one considers the Bush Administration’s policy of not pursuing Bin Laden a pacifist option, but I don’t.

History is never over and the 21st Century is going to be full of upheaval and chaos. We are seeing the stirrings of things to come; the weather is only going to become more extreme, scarcity of vital resources will only increase, and humans will invent new realms of madness and suffering and continue to embrace their cherished illusions. There is also the looming possibility of natural and cosmic disasters that are completely beyond our hope of control, but they have always been there. Yet there is also hope, and one should never underestimate the potential of the audacious joy of freedom. Consider that when Bin Laden died he had lived to see revolutions sweep across Muslim nations; yet these revolutionaries weren’t jihadists shouting his name, they were people demanding democracy.The maniacs and fanatics are very loud but the voice of reason is still more appealing to most people; we need to trust that more.

3 Responses to “Epistle to Anna and Kenny in the wake of a justified killing.”

  1. You make a number of good points. On the subject of torture, the NYT has a nice piece here: http://nyti.ms/klPzEC It appears that Khalid Sheik Muhammed _may_ have told us the name of the courier that ultimately led us to bin Laden after being waterboarded, but we got the rest of it the old fashioned way. So, I think it is probably a bit simplistic to say that _no_ torture was involved.

    I do agree that there probably was no other way to do this except how it was done. I’ll reiterate my admiration for Seal Team Six. I think this is part of my own personal discomfort. A mutual friend of ours (think alopecia) made a somewhat sarcastic comment to me after I posted some pictures I had taken of The President’s helicopters. He teased me for being the only “preacher” he knew who could identify helicopters at 3,000 feet. I lived on or near Army bases until I was 10. Yet, I won’t even eat dead animals. I’ve read enough and watched enough documentary television about SOCOM forces that I instantly knew who they had sent to get bin Laden. Yet I am a unapologetic pacifist. I’m not sure if this duality is an aspect of our new century or if it simply means I too have grown up. But it is very unsettling. I find I envy those who can chant “U-S-A” without any reservation. A part of me wishes I was that certain. But, I guess we have enough people of faith who are unable to deal with nuance.

    Another brief point; John Stewart made an excellent point which you echoed. He said that for too long bin Laden had been the face of Islam to Americans. Now the face of Islam can be the people in Tahrir Square and places like it.

  2. […] Kenny, the reason I accepted your teachings on pacifism and non violence, specifically regarding the death penalty, is because you also helped educate me about the military; I even gave vegetarianism a go but that only lasted a little longer than a haircut. Your perspective was informed from up close experience as well as a nuanced grasp of morality, and you also gave me some great books to read; you brought me around, that’s for sure. Struggle builds understanding, and perhaps that’s why ours is so clear; we have certainly struggled together many times throughout our lives. That must be why your dichotomies seem natural to me, a smooth whole, if you will. […]

  3. I agree with all of your points, but your last paragraph is the most sagacious. What is coming we cannot predict. Just speaking with my spouse today about the vicious weather and what it possibly forbodes. But yes, yes, yes, on the fact that the shouts were not bin Laden’s name, but shouts for freedom and for democracy. That above all else says everything.

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