Sunday, May 15, 2011

Celebrating Bin Laden’s Death and the Return of the Knowable World

Was May 1, 2011 about good versus evil?


Nathan Jurgenson contends in his article, Celebrating Bin Laden's Death and the Return of the Knowable World, that on the evening of May 1, 2011 Americans breathed a sigh of relief knowing that "the bad guy" was dead. We could momentarily cheer for the home team because we scored in a truly tangible way. But will this sense of celebration last? Who will replace bin Laden as "the new symbol to ground our naive presumption that the world. . . is simple and knowable?"

Nathan Jurgenson is a PhD student in Sociology at the University of Maryland working on a dissertation about self-documentation on social media.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Justice or Just Deserts?

What is justice? Is justice an "eye for an eye?" Can there be justice without without violence? And is justice the same as closure?

Kevin Bartoy tackles these questions in his article about the death of Osama bin Laden on May 1, 2011.

Kevin Bartoy is a father, husband, and archaeologist who lives in Seattle, Washington. He is a native of the Pacific Northwest and a proud public servant to the citizens of the State of Washington.

I have no sympathy for Osama bin Laden. When I heard the news of his death, I did not reflect on the loss of a human life. There is some inherent truth in the aphorism that those who live by the sword will die by the sword. Violence begets violence and those who live by violence will in the end get their “just deserts.” Let’s just not confuse “just deserts” with “justice.” The assassination of Osama bin Laden was not justice in any sense of the word. At best, it was just deserts.

Just deserts are sweet. Justice is bland. Just deserts come with a dash of vengeance and there is always a sense of relief that comes with vengeance. But, it seems that many of my fellow citizens amplified this feeling of relief into ecstasy. I immediately cringed when I heard reports of mobs breaking into chants of “USA! USA!” and singing “We are the Champions.” I even thought it was less than tasteful to wave American flags and high five. Aren’t these the types of behaviors that we condemn when someone does them to us? Remember the cries for vengeance that rained down on the Iraqis who were televised parading around the corpses of dead American soldiers and contractors? Do we not expect our behavior to receive a similar reaction from others?

If you want to celebrate in this manner, fine. This is America after all. We have a considerable amount of leniency when it comes to freedom of expression (that is, as long as you keep your clothes on). But, please, don’t bring forth all the righteous anger when al Qaeda throws a party to celebrate the next beheading or bombing. Remember that your actions will also make you part of the cycle of violence and hatred that we should be seeking to eliminate rather than emulate.

Enough of my reaction to the reactions of others though.

My immediate visceral reaction to the news of bin Laden’s death was a familiar one to me. It was the emotion that I most associate with just deserts. I am not too proud to admit that there was a tinge of vengeance in that emotion. But, it was more of a sense of relief that comes with closure. It was the same feeling that I had when I heard of the news of the death of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

Before you stop reading, let me remind you that among other highlights of their respective careers, Richard Nixon was the man who pulled the trigger on the coup that led to the assassination of Salvador Allende, a democratically elected leader of Chile, and Ronald Reagan was the man who bankrolled death squads that murdered indiscriminately across Central America throughout the 1980s. Despite the fact that they could hide behind democratic elections and a nation state to legitimate their power, these men also lived by the sword. Of course, they had the good luck (not to mention the protection of the largest military force on earth, the most nuclear weapons on earth, and the CIA, among other WMDs) not to die by the sword.

After my initial emotion passed however, I think that I just felt sad. I still do. I feel sad that my fellow citizens are celebrating death. I feel sad that my nation (and many of its citizens) thinks it is legal to commit extrajudicial assassinations on sovereign foreign soil. I feel sad that the media treats the news like a reality show at best and death porn at worst. I feel sad that many of my fellow citizens are afraid to express dissenting opinions of this event. But, most of all, I feel sad that even the President of the United States has the audacity to declare the killing of Osama bin Laden to be justice.

--Kevin Bartoy

Monday, May 9, 2011

Putting Away the Childish Things


This theme permeates the post, Putting Away The Childish Things, written by Sarah Piazza on May 2, 2011. How do we preserve the innocence of our children during a time of war and international conflict and tragedy? Sarah asks the hard question, "...what takes the place of lost innocence? Is it wisdom? Experience?"

Sarah is a freelance writer and assistant elementary teacher who lives in a college town in Pennsylvania. On her blog, Slouching Past 40, she writes about the intersection of parenting and psychology. She also writes fiction and poetry. You may contact her at slouchingmom AT gmail DOT com.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

An Interview with Jessica Dovey

Shortly after the death of Osama bin Laden on May 1, 2001 the internet exploded with responses both positive and negative. Jessica Dovey, an American living in Japan, posted her feelings, like millions of people around the world, on Facebook. Her's was the status that traveled the world within hours and created an internet frenzy of copying and pasting. Her status has become legendary. Ms. Dovey was kind enough to answer a few questions for the May Day Project. Our question and answer session is posted below (word for word :-).


CG: What were your first, unfiltered thoughts immediately after you heard about bin Laden's death?

JD: I live in Japan and was at work when it was announced, so I discovered via a flood of jubilant wallposts on Facebook. I wasn't sure how I felt at the time, but it wasn't relief and it wasn't joy. Living abroad has given me a different perspective on what it means to be American and the responsibilities that come with being such an influential nation. It's not so easy to wave a big stick when you are surrounded by people whose great grandfathers remember things like Hiroshima.

CG: Set the record straight for us: What was the original Facebook status that you posted in regards to the death of Osama bin Laden on May 1, 2011?

JD: I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy.

"Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." MLK jr

The line break is in there (yes, internet, I do know about shift+enter) and the quotation marks are clearly placed. Maybe I should have put another line break in and added a note that it came from Strength to Love.

CG: What lead you to post this status?

JD: I posted out of a desire for people to reflect upon the situation a little more seriously. I didn't know how to express my own, conflicted emotions, so I went to Dr. King's words, spent an hour or so reading, and felt better. I appreciate that so many people have used my own words to give shape to their feelings, even to the extent that they removed the actual MLK part and left just my sentence. His words are the most important part of my post, though. Dr. King's life was spent in pursuit of peace and justice for Americans, and he knew that violence and hatred were not going to achieve any meaningful victories. When he spoke of war in Vietnam, he spoke of the men, women and children whose homes and lives had been destroyed by our weapons, our support of corrupt leaders and our refusal to recognize their attempts at becoming an independent nation. (His speech addressing Vietnam can be read here. I highly recommend it.)

I posted that status because I think that it is incredibly dangerous as a nation to forget our humanity--does that not bring us to the same level as our enemies whose deaths we are dancing over in the streets? Yes, Al Qaeda has killed thousands of innocent people, and that should be mourned. However, we have also been a continuing force of destruction in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan--we have left beautiful, ancient cities ravaged with our ammunition, and villages torn apart with our violence. It is no surprise to me that we find little sympathy from the families whose lives have been upended.

CG: I've seen the "fake" MLK quote all over my Facebook newsfeed, and I even shared it with a few of my friends before the news broke about its origin. When did you first notice the your post had been "adjusted" and reposted?

JD: Not until someone had posted on the original comment thread to let me know. I didn't believe her until I did a search for the first sentence, my own, and found pages of references to Dr. King.

CG: Have you had any backlash to your original post or the corrupted MLK quote? I know have seen arguments all over Facebook in regards to the quote. It certainly has set off a storm of debate and discussion.

JD: That depends on how you define backlash--the goal of the post was to create discussion in the first place, and I don't consider disagreement a negative thing at all. I have only received one negative mail about the quote, and all it said was, "IDIOT". It made me laugh, so no harm done. I've seen worse on message boards and comment threads, but I am happy that the majority of response has been thoughtful and reflective.

CG: How does it feel to be in the spotlight right now? Is it overwhelming? A little exciting? Both?

JD: It was overwhelming at first, but the nature of instant internet fame is that it is so shortlived. I'm already old news! I still have tons of messages left to reply to, but I'm sure that everyone who sent them has moved on. If future employers do a Google search for my name, I won't be ashamed of what shows up.

CG: You are living in Japan, correct? What was the general reaction in Japan to bin Laden's death?

JD: I haven't had a chance to talk to my Japanese colleagues about it, but I have with my friends, who come from countries all around the world. They don't feel for a moment that Osama Bin Laden's death will end terrorism. The problem runs deeper than that. A lot of my American friends felt shamed by the way people were singing in the streets. Our reputation abroad is a touchy subject.

CG: Do you have anything further to add? Any thoughts, feelings, or information you'd like my readers to know?

JD: I am so grateful for all of the positive support that has been sent my way--thank you. :) I am glad that people are still willing to rationally discuss these issues, and hope that they will continue to do so. Any meaningful change will start with a few voices lifted together.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

On the Death of Osaba bin Laden

Mark Rice's article, On the Death of Osama bin Laden, hit home with me. My daughter turned ten the same week as his son. I remember talking with Mark and his family, babies in our arms, just days after the terrifying events of September 11, 2001. Ten years later, we still struggle to understand how that day changed the rest of their lives and ours.

Mark was born and raised in Washington State. After graduating from college, he spent several years living in the Philippines, Minnesota, Ohio, Idaho and Hawaii. In 1997, he and his wife landed in Brockport, where they are raising two kids. He is currently an associate professor and the chair of American Studies at St. John Fisher College. Mark writes and editorial column for the Democrat and Chronicle.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Way Over Yonder

Rosa Fernandez was moved by this song after hearing about the death of Osama bin Laden. Rosa is a dancer, mother, and a skilled massage and aromatherapist in Western New York. She also writes a blog about life with her lovely two year old little girl.


Way over yonder is a place that I know
Where I can see shelter from hunger and cold
And the sweet-tastin' good life is so easily found
Way over yonder, that's where I'm bound

I know when I get there, the first thing I'll see
Is the sun shining golden, shining right down on me
Then trouble's gonna lose me, worry leave me behind
And I'll stand up proudly in a true peace of mind

Way over yonder is a place I have seen
It's a garden of wisdom from some long ago dream

Maybe tomorrow I'll find my way
To the land where the honey runs in rivers each day
And the sweet-tastin' good life is so easily found
Way over yonder, that's where I'm bound
Way over yonder, that's where I'm bound

--Carole King