King of the Mountain
The President talks about justice. I believe in justice. All other things being equal, I’d say the death of Bin Laden was righteous. We could lay out the bodies of those who died on 9/11 and let them know what has been done in their names. But I can’t help also picturing the heap of dead bodies that have been added to the pile in our quest for justice. Not combatants, but ordinary people; women and children and men who, like the 9/11 victims, woke up one day, went out in the world, then never came home.
We know how many people died in the 9/11 attacks. We know their names and faces. We have built memorials for them. Do we know the same for the innocent civilians who have died in Afghanistan and Iraq? Do we know their numbers? Their names? Do they too get memorials? No, they don’t even seem to get a tick mark on a piece of paper. They are nameless and faceless, some poor families burden to silently swallow. They aren’t even counted.
How do we so strongly champion our own pain while simultaneously ignoring the pain of others. They, we say, should accept the tragedy inflicted upon them – their dead brothers and sisters, sons and daughter, fathers and mothers, their bodies sometimes smashed into unrecognizable oblivion, their cities on fire, their hearts dying with fear. They should accept it though we could not. They should accept it so that we do not have to, and when they can not, they become our enemies, though what they feel in their hearts may be the same feeling we have in ours. Their hearts don’t count.
How do we even use these words without choking on the terrible and violent way in which we keep them for ourselves and deny them to others. Every one of these words which bursts with a purity that would humble even God, we cheapen and cheat by saying them, but then meaning that they are only for us. Freedom, Justice, Democracy (but only for us).
There is a simple answer, and many who hear it will try and deny that it is true. We are better than them. We have more worth. Our tears are the gold standard for the commodity of pain. The rest we just count as water.
You want me to see victory - patriotism and stars. You want me to wear a red, white, and blue hood over my eyes and join the celebration. But I can’t. I just can’t. All I can see is a pile of dead bodies, grotesque and huge that never seems to stop growing. So go ahead and cheer and chant, claim your victory, and plant your flag. You are King of the Mountain. You have earned your victory. Somebody somewhere is counting what it truly cost.