Although the topic is stale to me now, all of the glory-seeking and self-congratulating surrounding the killing of Bin Laden has me thinking about our relationship with the other; how depictions of our enemies justify our irrationalities, driving actions into a regressive calculus of hate and aggression.
Outrage is flooding over the non-disclosure of pictures of OBL's corpse. Sure they could be advancing a conspiracy theory -- my cab driver from last night swears Bin Laden lives in Waziristan, and Saddam Hussein's doppelganger was executed in 2006 ("A hole is simply not Hussein's style; he would go out in a palace for sure"). But to me, seeking the release of that picture is a backwards quest of glory; a 2003 "Mission Accomplished" sign that only fuels false passion, even optimism, in a bleak geopolitical realm that needs much more than a victor and a conquest. By publishing those pictures, Obama would give America and the world a rationalized symbol of hatred, implicit approval of base instincts and a national sentiment that could be generalized into racist imaginations.
I'm a passionate person. I love life, politics, innovation, and a non-fat chai latte every other morning. And it gives me vigor to have opinions, to judge critically, and feel strongly about my decisions. And amidst my love for exuberant assertions, I've understood that demonizing the enemy, creating the dangerous "other" - that serves as a rationalization for our irrationalities (sometimes even our passions); the justification we seek for our own imperfect judgement.
I've fallen prey to it before. As Senators at Cal, my party hated the opposing one. Every thing they did was with evil intent, and every bill they proposed had to be voted down. I mean, this happens everywhere - the partisan debates over the budget in Washington were functionally futile and served only to hurt legislative efficiency. The problem is that by creating enemies in the Senate, I never got my own bills passed; I struggled with the inefficiencies of the system, when the very political system I was a part of was aiding partisan bickering. And the problem is universal. The kids on the side of the table actually, in the real world, are more political aligned with me than not, and although I'll probably never see or talk to them again, I realize now that we all have that blinding capability to hate...but it takes thought and consideration to exercise restraint and hold yourself to higher level of refinement and discipline.
The night the news dropped, I was surprised and upset by what I saw in the social media universe - anger, hatred, religious and racial obscenities; supposedly justifiable, but actually repugnant, degrading. We become the deceitful and unprincipled "other" when we lose our sensibilities and rest our heads on the comfortable righteousness we so assuredly claim is ours.
Although I can't say I'm religious, I have a feeling karma's out there. And no good can come of blinding vengeance, no matter how terrible the object of your hatred may be. It disrupts your peace, brings down your level of rationality, and mostly tends to be inefficient and a general waste of your time.
My remedy for an angry day? A mani/pedi, The Economist, some gangsta rap, and the San Francisco sun. It's a winning combination.