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Monday, May 2, 2011

"Why I can't celebrate"

Valarie Kaur, a third generation Sikh American film maker, writes about why she isn't celebrating Osama bin Laden's death:
The last time a sudden burst of nationalism rallied us against America’s turbaned and bearded enemy, an epidemic of hate crimes swept the country.  In the yearlong aftermath of 9/11, the FBI reported a 1700 percent increase in anti-Muslim violence. At least 19 people were killed in hate murders. In the last decade, we have seen resurgences of hate violence whenever anti-Muslim rhetoric reaches a fever pitch, as it has since the firestorm around the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” last election season confirmed to politicians that they can use anti-Muslim sentiment to win political points.  
In the last few months alone, Congressman Peter King held controversial congressional hearings investigating “radicalization” in the Muslim community, Tea Party protesters yelled “Terrorist!” and “Remember 9/11″ at Muslim families at a fundraiser, legislators proposed a flurry of bills banning sharia in more than a dozen states, and Arizona tried to pass a bill that would remove names of victims killed in post-9/11 hate crimes from its 9/11 memorial. It was only a matter of time before we heard news of violence.  Just a few days before the congressional hearings, two turbaned Sikhs were gunned down in likely hate crimes in Elk Grove, CA.  Another was murdered in Las Vegas.  
Today, the news of Osama bin Laden’s killing does not bring an end to the hate; it refuels it.  In a decade-long “war” against terror, each time our government decides that some people are so bad that they must be placed outside the reach of law, our national imagination shrinks.  Human beings, in their fullness and complexity, become one-dimensional enemies.  It’s hard to kill people; it’s easy to kill enemies.  Frightened by Islamic fanaticism, we turned Osama bin Laden from a frail sick human being into a mythic super-criminal who embodied pure evil. So, no wonder people are celebrating his destruction.  
We would never celebrate the murder of a person.  But thousands are pouring into the streets to rejoice in the death of evil incarnate. And those who “look like” him — especially Sikh men and boys with turbans and beards who have endured a decade of “hey bin Laden!” on our city streets — are waiting and hoping that Americans might change how they see. 
Update: Breaking News –  5/2/11 at 1PM PST 
Fears confirmed.  A Portland mosque was vandalized just hours after President Obama announced that the U.S. had killed bin Laden.  The graffiti reads: OSAMA TODAY, ISLAM TOMORROW. 

3 comments:

  1. When all the cheering was happening on the news last night I felt strangely uncomfortable. I was wondering why I wasn't feeling the elation and and jubilation that was being displayed on the news.

    Then as people were expressing their feelings on Twitter, I realized that I wasn't alone and it made me feel so much better. A man was killed. A man that caused a lot of death and destruction but it's still a human being.

    Thanks for making me feel like I'm not the only one.

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  2. Capturing bin Laden would have created a HUGE fiasco; the weak skinny man has been made an icon by both his supporters and detractors. Attempting to bring him to trial would have created an ongoing circus, and a dangerous one at that. Killing the man spares the world all that additional turmoil.

    I noticed in the news how young the people were who were celebrating in the street. It made me wonder if they were in grade school when 9/11 occurred. I sometimes believe that this was more of people's need to feel they are a part of something bigger than themselves rather than indulgence in or satisfying any sense of retribution?

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  3. @ Robert the Skeptic:

    "I noticed in the news how young the people were who were celebrating in the street. It made me wonder if they were in grade school when 9/11 occurred."

    That's an interesting observation. I pegged most of the woofing and chanting revelers at maybe 18-26 years old. That would mean they were 9-16 years old on 9/11. Would the revelry be more a function of their current age or the age they were on 9/11?

    I really can't even imagine someone old enough to appreciate the gravity of death going out into the street and chanting USA, USA, like killing is an Olympic sport. Not only is it difficult to be exuberant about the death of any human being, but OBL is tied back to the deaths of thousands of people. That connection makes celebration feel inappropriate, no matter what I think of OBL. It's not like he scored a 3-pointer, and we answered with two 3-pointers. People died.

    I know, I'm preaching to the choir.

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