My president, the one I voted for, gave a speech tonight sparsely describing the series of events that led up to a man’s death. This man, responsible for many other deaths and much hatred, has been sought after for more than a decade (we’ve actually been looking for him since the mid-nineties). Yesterday, after invading not one, but two countries to find him, we finally found and killed him. My president said, “Justice has been done.”
Justice is done, is it? Is this what justice looks like? Is this closure? Are the thousands dead from terror attacks and war casualties just going to pop back in for dinner, now? Is it all better, because this one engineer-turned-terrorist-dickehad is dead?
I sincerely doubt it. Geraldo, trumpeting our triumph, said that we have had our revenge, old-testament style. We have taken our eye, he crowed. That is a more accurate portrayal of this set of events. This was not justice, and it does not serve us to pretend that it is. It is revenge. The funny thing about revenge, though, is that it is never as satisfying as you hope it will be. Hamlet only works as a play because everyone dies at the end.
There are teenagers–children, really–celebrating on the street in front of the White House. Children who barely remember a time before terrorism and TSA pat downs and terror alerts. Children who, as one friend put it, have been brought up to believe that Osama Bin Laden is our enemy, our great satan. They have been raised on fear, and tonight they are celebrating because they think that fear is going to lift.
What they don’t know, poor dears, is that we have seen the enemy, and the enemy is us. You know those prisons we’re keeping? The secret CIA ones, the wretched hell holes from which there is almost no hope of escape? Where we hold people–sometimes innocent people–without charges or trials? The people held there–and the loved ones of those held there–have more than enough reason to step up into the power vacuum left by one dead terrorist. Terrorism isn’t going to stop because we kill a few terrorists, or even a hundred thousand terrorists. Terrorism will continue as long as we continue to say that we believe in freedom and democracy and human rights while supporting brutal regimes and flagrantly disregarding the humanity of people who oppose us.
So no, this is not justice. The celebration of revenge is just an indicator of how far from justice we are. When we close Guantanamo and return the prisoners held there to their homes and families, I will celebrate justice. When we refuse to hold people without trials or charges, I will celebrate justice. When we stop blowing up our own people and the people of other nations for oil or whatever-the-fuck, I will celebrate justice. I will celebrate justice when we comport ourselves with grace, humility, and tolerance, something that we have sadly neglected to do in the last decade. But this? This is not justice. Keep your champagne and your fireworks, your flag-waving and your anthems. Me? I’m going to bed, where I will dream of a world where murder–even the murder of a murderer–is not cause for celebration.