Victory, Not Vengeance

The meaning behind the name of the industrial/ebm band VNV Nation seemed fitting for today.

“Victory Not Vengeance”

The concept that we should achieve victory, but not for the sake of revenge. Justice, not a thirst for blood. Justice, of course, is not a damnable thing when it is carried out responsibly. When crimes are committed repercussions are natural and necessary to achieve a honorable society.

For a decade we’ve been chasing the mastermind behind the September 11th attacks, desperately pouring money and lives into a search — presumably for justice. Yesterday, justice was served and Osama Bin Laden was killed at the hands of a US military team. The death of Osama is a symbolic statement more than anything else. A symbol for justice, for the intolerance of hatred and senseless violence.

Of course, that is what it should have meant.

The news has sparked a wave of jingoistic flag-waving unlike any other. People have literally taken to the streets, celebrating the death of another human being. While I understand why this is happening, I can’t feel comfortable with it. Almost as immediately as the news hit the masses, a sense of justice was morphed into a sense of vengeance. It was surreal to watch Phillies fans jump into chants of “U-S-A” at Citizen’s Bank Park. Seeing clips of it, I can’t help but feel as if I don’t recognize these people. Yes, Osama’s death is ultimately a positive — but to embrace it with pure celebration as if the death of a man is equal to winning the World Series? Does that not continue the hatred? This was not a sense of relief — that an enemy had fallen and a symbol of hatred had been buried. It was a zealous, cheerful exuberance.

As a country we have always tried to claim that we are “better than that.” That we are above the enemy. We are a land of justice, a land of freedom and prosperity, not savagery. When videos circulated around the media after 9/11 of people cheering, we judged them as lesser. This, of course, wasn’t because of the hate directed at us (or so we claimed) — it was because of the lack of respect shown to the dead. It was because it was zealotry and intolerance. It was a celebration of the death, something that has no place in a civilized society.

The difference here, is that we see one group as innocent and one group as the enemy. While there is no doubt truth to that statement, the hatred it has the potential to breed is dangerous — if not precisely the goal of Osama in the first place.

A quote from Salon’s David Sirota sums it up best:

This is bin Laden’s lamentable victory: He has changed America’s psyche from one that saw violence as a regrettable-if-sometimes-necessary act into one that finds orgasmic euphoria in news of bloodshed. In other words, he’s helped drag us down into his sick nihilism by making us like too many other bellicose societies in history — the ones that aggressively cheer on killing, as long as it is the Bad Guy that is being killed.

We shouldn’t roll over — and the fight against hatred (and terrorism) is a just one. However, we shouldn’t be consumed by it. We shouldn’t forget that we are fighting to end hatred, not to perpetuate it. The death of Osama should signal images of 9/11 in our minds. We should remember that this man was responsible for killing thousands, yet we should also remember that his death does not bring them back, nor does his death signal the end of terrorism.

In the end, the cycle continues. One man was not terrorism. One man was not an ideal.

I’ll add more to this later. Just wanted to scribble some thoughts down before class.

3 thoughts on “Victory, Not Vengeance

  1. Nice to see you’re back! Or not, considering the subject matter.

    One of my theories is that it’s simply another example of how the constituents of a nation at war or that has suffered at the hands of an enemy dehumanizes said enemy to maintain some semblance of a moral high ground, or more realistically, to mentally cope with the fact they are taking the life of another human being whose most principal difference from themselves is nationality, whether that manifests culturally or physically (since the latter is the most patently obvious, it is the one typically singled out). Psychologically, these people are no more celebrating the death of their fellow man than if he were some sport or game: the most apt description that comes to mind is perhaps one of ritual animal sacrifice, as the celebratory release of pent-up bloodlust has parallels to practices of older cultures. Their god is freedom, or peace, or justice– however they will justify it to themselves or for posterity’s sake, though like we do today with many of our ancestral cultures, we will look back on them and shake our heads (though the jury’s still out on whether our future selves will prove to be as hypocritical as those in the present).

    (p.s. oh god, I wrote a huge thing on moral nihilism that never went anywhere, ~why~. maybe someone can make a connection)

  2. Pingback: Crunchy Domestic Goddess » What Are We Teaching Our Kids With Our Reactions to Osama bin Laden’s Death?

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