“We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation. It’s one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it’s another to think that yours is the only path.”
~ Paulo Coelho
I wrote this after hearing the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death, and seeing the subsequent celebrations:
“I just don’t understand.
Three days ago, I saw people on facebook saying that they refuse to celebrate the royal wedding, that there were better things to be doing with their time. And today, I see those exact same people rejoicing over a death? Celebrating murder? Making jokes about it, too?
Is it just me, or is that just so completely backwards? Refusing to celebrate love, but celebrating the violent end of a life?
To be clear, I am in no way a sympathiser of Osama Bin Laden, and like everyone, I think he was one of the most vile people to have ever lived, but I will not rejoice in a death, no matter whose it is.
What are we celebrating exactly? Justice? Revenge? Murder? Triumph? Violence?
It was all those things that Osama claimed he was celebrating 10 years ago. I remember seeing footage of Osama’s supporters, they were cheering and dancing in the street on 9/11. I felt disgusted, horrified, and angered that they thought violence was something to celebrate.
Now I see us doing the same thing. 10 years later, so much pain, so many lives lost, and this is what it has come down to? An eye for an eye? Well, as Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”
Yes, they were celebrating the mass murder of thousands of innocent people, and today people are celebrating the death of their enemy, the one responsible for so much loss and pain, but it’s still the celebration of violence.
Celebrating violence is not the path to peace. It’s the path to more violence.
This killing doesn’t mean the war is won, it doesn’t even mean the war is over. After all, there are never really any winners in war, or in violence.
Osama’s death was inevitable and necessary. But even writing that made me feel uneasy, as it well should. The day I find it easy to say that someone needed to die, is the day my humanity is lost. Which is why I am so disturbed to see people cheering and partying and even joking about this. Are we that desensitised that war and murder and violence are now considered funny? Are we that disconnected?
Maybe we are. And maybe we can learn from this. I’ve seen many others who feel the same way I do, who just can’t bring themselves to celebrate this. Maybe this is another moment in which we must choose, and our choice determines whether or not we move forward in love or in fear. I’m choosing love. And love doesn’t grow in violence or revenge.
I will celebrate the end of war, not the end of life.”
I was very angry when I wrote that. Seeing so many news articles, tweets, status updates and facebook pages all rejoicing over violence, joking about it, sharing footage and photos of the violence, made me feel sick to the stomach. For a moment, I completely lost faith in humanity.
Sitting at the computer and being continuously bombarded with so many things that were clashing with my soul (including one very graphic image on the homepage of a news site), I realised that the only way to clear my head and calm down was to get as far away from media as possible. And that’s exactly what I did.
I sat with it for a while, that feeling of anger, trying to figure out how anyone could think violence should be celebrated. I tried to put myself in their shoes, thinking maybe if someone I loved was in those towers…. Would I then be dancing in the street? If I had come face to face with Bin Laden in that room, and if I had been the one to take his life, would I then feel the need to celebrate?
I can’t answer those questions. All I know is, it just doesn’t feel right to be joyful about this. Relieved maybe, and sad that such acts are sometimes necessary in our world, mournful for all the lives that have been lost because of this war and because of that man, and also a feeling of closure, that at least some part of the past can now be let go of for a lot of people, but no joy.
Spending some time away from the media gave me time to reflect on my anger. I realised that I was being unfair to judge others reactions just because they were different to my own. As much as I don’t understand it, I have no right to condemn the behaviour of others. We all deal with things differently, because we are all different.
If I want to live in a world where people are treated equally, and accepted no matter their differences, then I first need to make those qualities a part of who I am. I can’t preach acceptance and then condemn others for doing things differently.
And although I believe that we can’t say we want peace and then cheer at the news of violence, I will accept those whose first reaction is to cheer. They need to do what feels right for them, and I need to do what feels right for me. I respect them for doing what feels right for them, and I love them for living their truth.
The moment I realised this, all my anger dissolved. Letting go of judgement meant I stopped trying to control the actions of others, and it allowed me to feel calm and peaceful again.
Even if I don’t understand it, I can accept it, and I can let them express what they need to without judging them. And I hope that those who don’t understand my reactions and beliefs can give me the same acceptance, and the same freedom to express myself without fear of judgement.
Judgement fuels hate, it separates people, turns simple differences into right and wrong, good and evil, and all of that leads to violence, to war.
Acceptance fuels kindness, kindness brings people together, turns simple similarities into understanding and connection, friendship and love, all of that leads to a united world, to peace.
A lot has happened in the world over the last few days, some big ups and downs, and as you can see, I was affected greatly by it all. The death of a man that I only knew as the face of fear, led me to have a very personal realisation, and as a result, gain a new perspective on life.
We really can learn from every experience.
The beautiful Liv at Choosing Beauty wrote this amazing piece that gave me another new perspective on all of this: What Happened To Osama Bin Laden’s Heart?
With a more open mind and heart,