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.


  1. What an interesting interview!

  2. It makes me want to meet her!
    There is also something about expat Americans. I love it!
    Thanks for willing to share the story.

  3. She seems like a remarkable woman.

  4. Excellent, fascinating interview!