After listening to countless reports on CNN last night and reading endless tweets about how “Obama killed Osama” I feel very conflicted. I’m not sad that bin Laden is dead, but I’m not celebrating either. My spirit is so very far from celebrating. Jubilant shouts of “USA, USA, USA” will surely morph right back into tea-partiers calling President Obama a “n*gger monkey” by week’s end. Now that the US Special Forces have dropped Osama’s bullet-ridden body into the North Arabian Sea, I keep asking myself what does all of this really mean?
Our President, to whom I give props for making the call— a cold, calculated call, but one that he had to make as Commander-in-Chief says, the “world is safer.” Is it really? I actually feel a whole lot less safe. I feel totally vulnerable. I feel American and un-American. Today’s NY Times states bin Laden “was elevated to the realm of evil in the American imagination once reserved for dictators like Hitler and Stalin.” When someone with that tight of a grip on the world’s psyche is eliminated I wonder what or who will then fill that same psychological space. Love? Forgiveness? Qaddafi? Obama? Allah? God? I have to remind myself that everything we are told and are taught is not to empower us. In an attempt to understand my feelings and get to the nitty gritty of my blah emotions, I decided to read the issue of theHotness we published a month after September 11th. Surprisingly there are some wonderful, healing, emboldening and insightful nuggets of revelations in that issue and in the subsequent issue we ended up calling “Readers Respond” because it’s not the conflict that defines us, but it’s about our response to conflict that matters, right? Please check out the thoughts of Shabana Mir, Leslie Hinkson, Marcia Jones, and Bahia Ramos as they poke at and, in some cases, skewer ideas of patriotism, terror and peace leaving them still smoking on a stick in 2011 echoing why none of us should feel like celebrating today. Read the full issues here and here. Please feel free to share your thoughts and how you’re feeling about all of this.
Pakistani, Bloomfield, Indiana
I was there when Pakistan was targeted repeatedly for terrorist attacks while being the conduit for US aid to the Afghan mujahideen against Soviet forces. Bomb blasts at crowded bus stops; unprecedented serial killings of unprecedented violence and brutality, and increasing rates of drug addiction due to drug trafficking from Afghanistan were some of the costs Pakistan bore for helping America fight its war on a distant land. And Afghanistan, in the end, was what brought the dreaded superpower to its knees. Hard to remember, now that bin Laden has made Afghanistan his headquarters.
The terror is unprecedented, but Americans have no idea what it is to be “attacked.”
In all of the racist rhetoric against Muslims, Arabs and Islam, I felt like my name was being associated with Osama bin Laden and my soul revolted against that association. I am not bin Laden. I am not a terrorist. I am a Pakistani Muslim Sufi woman.
African-American, Princeton NJ
In the rhetoric of GW and Colin Powell our higher purpose is freedom and the morality of today is that of “eye-for-an-eye” vengeance. However, the response of the United States government, rather than easing my doubts and fears has increased them. The rhetoric of patriotism, acts as a means of dividing as well as separating the people of this country. This patriotism coupled with the language of revenge that we have been inundated with since the 11th has contributed greatly to the attacks on Arabs, Indians, Persians, and Muslims across the country.
I want justice done. I want those responsible to be punished. I do not think this will be accomplished by murdering thousands of innocents. If we choose this path, we too are terrorists. This goes well beyond the actions of a few dozen men. It speaks of the suffering of millions across the globe whose fear and uncertainty have turned to anger. Punish those responsible, but leave the innocents alone. Unless we get to the root of the problem, unless we come to understand the poverty and hopelessness that resides in many countries across the globe and America’s contribution to this state, we will never stamp out terrorism. Kill one terrorist and you create a martyr to be praised and emulated. Kill hunger, disease, and hopelessness and you create allies. And more importantly, you create a morality within your own borders, a value for human life above material gain that this nation sorely lacks.
African-American, Atlanta, GA
I struggle daily to find peace and happiness in this heavy suit of blood and bone. I admit, I am not well read on the Taliban. I don’t know who was flying that plane. No one does. People have assumed. I don’t watch the news. I’m tired of hearing about it. I feel like I’m being made out to be an idiot, as if I’m just suppose to swallow what I am fed.
All that I know is this has affected me. It has interrupted my inner peace, the peace I thought I had acquired within. I now battle with my own extremes. I fight my own personal battles of good over evil within myself. I have lied. I have terrorized. I have blamed and I have denied. I have united with others for a cause. I have believed in the American dream. And I have donated, honestly, just to make room for new shit but hey I am American. I am a product of this nation. I am a product of my environment and my environment is a product of me. A reflection. It’s time to really change.
Panamanian, Miami, FL
From the prominent display of the American flag on our businesses, homes, and bodies, it has been made clear that America comes first. Any optimism about a growing Black political or social consciousness has been replaced by the red, white and blue. Seeing another community of color under attack has apparently wiped away our historical role as the “least desirable” race and, either as a show of thanks or an attempt to avoid any backlash, we have sucked jingoism up like good BBQ sauce and joined the ranks of the patriotic zealots we once despised.
I cannot bring myself to join in choruses of “God Bless America” and drape myself in Old Glory. America’s conceit does not sit well with me. I cannot be proud of a country that is largely ignorant and boastful of its conquests. Its alleged economic prosperity has done very little to uplift communities of color or the poor. The “white noise” of patriotism is being blared with such ferocity that it’s become increasingly harder to even hear my own heartbeat.