I, for one, shall not argue against the fact that Osama bin Laden was a vile man, that the tragedies and deaths he inspired still make the memory run cold and that he has left the world worse off for having lived.
But when thousands celebrate the death of one man upon the grave of a thousand dead—when Ground Zero is defiled with a celebration of life lost, when we are united only when towers and men fall, divided and bickering in all the moments in between—who shall argue that we are not a country who worships, who jubilates over death?
And when President Obama declares that the death of one man is a historical moment for the United States, who shall argue that our history is not a litany of revenge?
When our excursions into foreign territories threaten not only our own country’s stability, but the world’s—when our assassinations breed a torment against us and when lungs are already filling with cries for vengeance—who shall say that, in exterminating a terrorist, we have not begat more terror, like maggots that thrive off of a corpse?
When already we are prepared to face a war on terrorism post-bin Laden—when the President admits that “there’s no doubt that Al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us”—who shall argue that our guns help to end violence, to end warfare, to end fear?
When Knox’s own drunken students ride around on bicycles waving flags in the obscene hours of the night—when they make a mockery of themselves and this institution and their country—who shall argue that the war-lust has not entered our very midst?
When our own students chant “America” with the identical fervor and passion that they commit, hours later, to cheering a Lady Gaga impersonator, who shall argue that our patriotism is something more than a pop culture sham?
I, for one, refuse to discuss “9/11” if we do not first discuss the terrors our own country has committed—the bombing of the Al Shifa pharmaceutical company in Sudan, a ridiculously-justified invasion of Iraq, accidental bombings of young children in Afghanistan who we fondly name “collateral damage.” I, for one, am tired of hearing “9/11” chanted by the careless and the thoughtless and the murderous. I am tired of hearing that date invoked to achieve obscene ends.
So, seeing that we ourselves are drunk with blood, mad with blood and drunk on this ugliness, all this pitiful bloodlust masquerading as patriotism; it is all I can do to point out the terrific mental insobriety of the “patriot.” It is all I can do to suggest that we commit ourselves anew to what should be sacred, what should never be stolen—that is, the unbearable fragility of life, any life, all life.
The new position should be unremitting—death is nothing to celebrate, death is diametrically opposed to the objective of our existence.
The new position should be clear—we live in order to thrive.
I, for one, shall not declare myself to be a part of that mythical notion of the one nation, under its hollow God, indivisible only in tragedy, with its blasé liberty and blood-hungry justice. I am ready for a world multifarious, under an oath to life, indefatigable in its pursuit of peace, with a liberty, a mercy that stands undaunted to the challenges of its times.