This past Sunday was a busy day of painting, shopping, swing-pushing, barbecuing, the company of friends, and Sunday evening, sitting on the couch to catch up on TV which was promptly interrupted by the announcement: Bin Laden is dead and people are cheering on the streets; my initial reaction? Numbness. I thought of the lives lost, both Muslim and non-Muslim. I thought of how 9/11 forever altered the landscape of this country and my life. The hate not confined to distant lands but bubbling up where I lived; bigotry once hidden now gnashing its teeth without apology. As numbness faded, relief settled in as did a sense of justice. But I still didn’t want to dance. Even the mother who watches the death row inmate die for killing her child does not grin and throw a ticker-tape parade. Yes, his death prevents future atrocities at his hands but his death does not erase what happened, what can never be undone, and the hate that remains like exposed wires.
The next day friends asked, are you okay? I didn’t get it until I turned on the news and found the answer: He was found in Pakistan. They must have known. They’ meaning the country and all its hundred million plus inhabitants. Pakistan is our worst enemy a pundit declared. I then understood my friends concerns. Blame Pakistan. Blame its people. Blame me.
Fifth Grade, the Gulf War began and I was bullied for the crime of sharing the same faith as Saddam Hussein. Those were cruel days and I still bear the scars but as an adult I can look back at those narrowed eyes and tell myself they were children, they didn’t know better. But now? I see the same vitriol by people fully grown. Narrowed eyes taking in a billion plus people and seeing complicity in all. It’s simpler to hate an entire group- blame an entire nation but the truth is not so simple, and to think otherwise is to dehumanize and is dangerous.
Did the Pakistani government know Bin Laden was there? I don’t know. Did I? No. I’m a teacher. A lawyer. A writer. A mother. A wife. A sister. A daughter. I am sometimes moody. Often gullible. I love Mad Men. And Sunflowers. I am Muslim. I am not a terrorist and I am not going to explain or apologize for anyone’s actions but my own and perhaps that of my child if he knocked over your drink. Sorry about that.
I planned to write a three beautiful things post about my son’s first birthday but with fingers pointed at a country of millions who like me, are 99.9% blameless, I feel I have to say something however impotent these words may be. The happenings of the world matter and a man who caused too much pain to too many people and spit upon my faith is gone. This is a good thing; but my life is lived in the little corner of the world I inhabit and I try to inhabit it with integrity trying to be the best friend, sister, mother, wife, daughter I can be. I hope when you see me, that is what you see.
I’ve never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure- Mark Twain.