I wish it were over.
The US, and quite probably our allies, found Bin Laden – and as it turns out, he was instructing his own to kill themselves in the mountains while he hung out in a mansion in Pakistan. I shouldn’t be surprised at this. I am surprised that I bought into the very idea of him hiding out in the mountains. No terrorist “leader” from Hussein to Hitler has every actually bunkered with the people they’ve persuaded to go on suicide missions. Nope, they always go for the rich digs with the comfy beds and no fleas to bite you in your sleep. Once again, the “extremism” was a manipulation, and given Bin Laden’s choices he was probably not an extremist, but a sociopath with the charisma necessary to exploit the extremism and hate in others. I’ve been learning a lot about anger scripts and negativity lately, and I’m slightly less bewildered than I was about how getting someone to do what you want to the point where that person’s actual morality gets blocked in favor of a false morality happens.
I’ve been learning about these skills to protect myself, not to exploit others; I’ve had experiences with people with manipulative skills all my life, though none have gone so far as to attempt murder with those abilities. Since empathy was demanded of me, but not practiced for me, I am learning those emotional skills as an adult, relatively late in life. It comes with a consciousness both comforting – I know what happened – and deeply uncomfortable – I think I know what happened. These skills are to some extent coming to fore in the face of this news.
Jihad, as it was explained to me, is the struggle to do right in the eyes of God. The moment you commit a terrorist act, you have failed in that struggle. All Bin Laden had to do was tap into the negative programming of “those that are different are wrong,” that so many in all cultures are raised with, and from there get them so worked up that they took the choices of those outside their cultural context personally. Rather than a “whatever, more virgins for me,” attitude that would keep to the teachings with no bloodshed, it turned into an all-out hatefest with a repeated, justifying script in the head: anger has a way of convincing you you’re right, and while you might initially be, eventually anger eats into your critical thinking and IQ. It also works hard to sustain itself in your mind and soul, often retreating to anger scripts until you’re no longer a reasoning person – but you are absolutely convinced that you are sane and reasoned. The reality is that you’ve rendered yourself incapable of learning anything in that section of your brain. You can halt those scripts, but first you must choose not to be seduced by the high that anger gives you.
The West does not call it Jihad, but we do have something similar we haven’t named hanging over our heads, whether theist or not. We also fail, and in the US, that failure tends to slide into racism and misogyny, with a fair dose of misandry to go with it. It comes with the same negative scripts, although we don’t have an entire concept of “the West” to turn our hatred onto: we’ve just got small pockets of each other, as we are not and will never be as homogenized as the ads run in the 1950s would have liked us to believe. We have the same poison in us, in our culture, that Bin Laden had in himself and that he used on those around him. We have the same capacity for hate. We have the same absolute inconsistencies in our belief systems.
We all have the same humanity, and that includes an ability to be utterly, coldly inhuman.
Killing Bin Laden isn’t the ending of anything. As much as I want to go back to the 1990s, one of the rules of this life, even for those of us who live by a concept of circular time is that there is no going back. The TSA will continue to feel us up and call it “safety.” The days of greeting our loved ones at airplane gates are long gone. The economy may well recover, but it will be because of some new approach: auto production and steel mills are not going to be how we build the United States anymore. I also hope that we ourselves learn to drop the “America” because the United States is NOT America: America is two continents and an isthmus, and most of it speaks Spanish and drinks a lot of really strong coffee.
Wishing for the past does nothing to improve the future, but it can definitely damage the present.
There are more consequences ahead. First, while Pakistan is not officially in trouble, unofficially they are in deep shit. The Pakistani people are not stupid, and they have their share of free-thinkers. Pakistan really needs those free thinkers now. Given that Pakistan shares a border with China, they better think fast – their nuclear arms are a deterrent, but considering how this has all played out, I have to wonder how much of a deterrent they really are since they’re pointed at India. Collectively, most Muslims I’ve spoken to believe in Fate, rather than in free will. This makes certain attitudes about those outside their culture even more confusing, since “fate” has determined a whole lot of people not be born into their faith – and fate determines that those people will never sincerely convert. This is not to say that that my own culture doesn’t have a lot of bullshit and inconsistency; I’m a religious minority on a worldwide scale and I have a hard enough time keeping consistent within my own religious and moral practice AND I have had to negotiate my beliefs while surrounded by Christianity in both negative and positive forms, Islam in its negative and positive, and other forms of polytheism and atheism with different levels of aggression and ethnocentrism. At times even I am forced to retreat to what’s comfortable instead of to what challenges my world view, no matter how self-improving that challenge may be.
Second, the US is still out there worldwide. By now we’ve once again created a series of co-dependent systems that will have economic and social impacts wherever we’ve gone. Again, there is never any going back. Those places are altered, and must draw upon creative energy to move forward somehow, whatever forward might mean to those cultures.
When we do bring the service men and women home, what do we do with them? Viet Nam and Iraq brought back thousands of broken people, beyond our capacity to fix them. The military doesn’t help people transition back to civilian life. This is a service that religious and non-religious charities are going to have to fill in a gap for: transition, and not “back” but “forward” into envisioning a life.
What we have lost, we have lost. We will never get those things back. 3000 people died in 9/11, some were Christian, Muslim, atheist – I’ll bet there was even a Pagan or two in the fallout, and there were definitely Pagans that have died in the war that has followed. I have lost some of my own wildness, freedom and youth as a result of the times that followed 9/11, and others have had losses that cut so much deeper, losses that were followed by funerals, bankruptcy, illness and homelessness. I lost my outspokenness (believe it or not) because the Patriot Act made me afraid to draw attention to myself or my friends. I lost a marriage, a sense of comfort, and while I favor Obama most of the time, my distrust in the government is absolute. I tend to favor the Democratic party over the Republican party only because I feel that the Democrats do not threaten my basic right to vote as a woman and only about half of them want to force me into their churches.
While we can hail the death of one symbolic man as a new beginning, it is not. It is an ending – the beginning signifies a cleanup, followed by a very hard look at our relationships both on an international and individual level.
My own beginning involves learning and mastering anger. My “never again” is about learning to control those scripts, and learning to see them in others. I wish there were an “over” to all this, but if there is, it’s not here yet. When “over” does arrive, it will be a world that who I am right now will no longer recognize. I hope I can adapt to it.