Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I Will Not Dance


It is a scene I will never forget. Late on Sept. 11, 2001, having watched the towers fall literally hundreds of times by then, I finally left my friends and colleagues in San Francisco with whom I had spent the day, almost unable to move -- so hypnotized by the horror of it. I remember getting to my apartment and, of course, immediately snapping on the television. Like so many who did not live in New York City, I imagined incorrectly that my helplessness would seem less if I were not so far away, feeling somehow that watching every moment was the least I could do.

Just as I was falling asleep, I saw a new scene on the screen, images of people in other countries dancing for joy in the streets. Nearly three thousand people had been killed, and there was rejoicing. Though this seems incredibly naive now, I was shocked, somehow realizing at that moment in a new way that we were in deep, deep trouble.

Osama Bin Laden was an evil man, monstrously twisted by hate and the certainty of religious absolutism. I am glad that he is no longer able to spew his vitriolic and incessant call to violence. My guess is that the courageous men who stormed his compound had no choice; Bin Laden died as he lived, violently with a weapon in his hands.

But I will not dance at death. I will not tell others, unless asked, how they should respond. But I will not dance. Sanctimonious? No. I make no claims of moral superiority, knowing full well the slipperiness of that slope. Nor do I claim scriptural authority or purity, again knowing that I can be out-thumped by any number of thumpers.

I am simply fearful that the damage such rejoicing would bring to my soul -- a soul, which has lived long enough already to be injured by the reality of life -- would for me be beyond repair.

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