Friday, May 6, 2011

Is death ever a call for celebration?

After few weeks of a pretty satisfying and much appreciated break from college, I was back again last Tuesday for the orientation week. Although classes officially start next week, I had to be there till yesterday to help the journalism freshmen get oriented to their new life in college. I initially thought I would dread going back there, but things turned out pretty positively. It was great to see friends again. It was nice to get to know the new students too. And I admit I did miss the college surrounding a bit.

So much has happened. In my life. In the world. In Osama bin Laden's life, what with it being nil now. And the whole world, not just America, seems to be celebrating that--the loss of a life. I understand that people will obviously be relieved that such a cruel and heartless man can no longer be a threat to America or the world. But I can't help but wonder, is it ever right to celebrate the death of a person, even if that person was a most notorious terrorist responsible for the lives of thousands? He was still a life after all, and one that never got to know Christ. Besides, he may be dead (at least that's what Obama proclaims to the world), but terrorism is not. It's really no use rejoicing over the death of a mad scientist who engineered some fatal virus that infected and killed thousands when no cure is yet found to heal the surviving patients. Of course, it's reassuring to know that the mad guy is no longer available to make more crazy viruses.

The world may be a degree safer to live in now, but that doesn't mean we would no longer be killed by a car driven by a drunk driver, our own health, a natural disaster, another terrorist out there, or in a war. Yes, a war.

I'm definitely not going to mourn his death, but I find it uncomfortable that it should be a call for celebration either. I believe Osama was an inhumane guy, who deserved to pay for his own actions against inhumanity with his own life. I believed that inhumanity should be stopped. But is the decision to stop inhumanity through years of more inhumanity--I'm talking about the war in Afghanistan, not just finally taking down Osama--right? Doesn't that bring us back to the problem? 
Americans who celebrated at Ground Zero can happily say that justice is finally found for the victims of 9/11 and all other terrorist attacks led by Osama. I wonder when can the civilians affected by the ongoing war in Afghanistan claim that justice for themselves too.

Sure, many think Osama's death is just, but they may also be others who would think the total opposite--his family and his followers, for example. If I were an American who has lost a family member due to the 9/11 catastrophe, of course I would be angry at Osama for the grief caused. Knowing that he has finally been defeated would be great justice. However, if my whole family has been killed in a crossfire in Afghanistan all in the name of curbing terrorism, I would be angry at the party responsible for the war in Afghanistan. Justice for me would be to see the war end already. I can imagine being angry that justice is done for the people victimized by terrorism when nobody pays for the countless deaths of the victims of the war. Are the lives of people in Afghanistan less worthy? Are the victims of a terrorist attack more deserving of justice than the ones who have been suffering for years in a war-torn surrounding?

Terrorists should pay for their own crime, not the civilians. It is sad how in the end, it is almost always the civilians who have to be sacrificed. Innocent people die, because really, they have no control over the decisions made by their leader and their leader's enemy. The leaders, whether in the East or the West, go ahead with their agendas without regard for the innocents--all in the name of nationalism, religion and world peace. Even if care is given to lessen casualties, how are you going to give back the few lives lost?

People die because of terrorism. And people die because of wars. Why does the American government see terrorism as a horror that needs to be stopped but advocate war as the solution to a problem? Is war any kinder than terrorism? Is it still called justice when so many lives in Afghanistan have been taken away in exchange for the ones lost in 9/11? It doesn't matter that United Nations reported that the Taliban were responsible for 76% of deaths in the war. The victims' families would still remember their loss in association with the presence of a foreign military in their country. And when will the Afghans be able to celebrate justice of their own? When the American troops leave their country? When the Taliban lose power? Or do they expect to see something else? Justice for them is not as clear or simple, I think.

And in this effort of justice, what happens if the surviving al-Qaeda retaliates by attacking again? To the terrorists, that would be their definition of justice. Justice for their leader who has been killed. Then, more innocent civilians would get hurt.

I'm not on any side. I'm just a confused girl, grieved by the fact that men would hurt others to fight for their own justice, to achieve their own goals. I'm just disturbed that the same people who cried over someone's death would rejoice over another's. Osama's death shouldn't be a call for celebration, but a cause of grief of the awareness that mankind will only continue to cause pain and loss to one another, holding on to the nature of revenge. To me, continual retaliation from both parties is not justice.

As Alexander Solzhenitsyn, a Russian novelist said:

"Justice is conscience, not a personal conscience but the conscience of the whole of humanity."
That's what we are losing today. Real justice. As long as an action pleases oneself, one goes ahead with it, confident that one's action can be justified after that. Regard for all humanity has been lost. That is why now one man's joy is always another man's sadness.

I don't have the answer to what really is fair. It is so easy to define justice in a dictionary, but I don't think it can ever be objective in this grey, grey world.

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