Pencil to Paper

The Daily Life of a Compulsive Writer

Guest Post: Osama bin Laden’s Death May 3, 2011

Filed under: In the News — katblogger @ 4:52 PM
Tags: , ,

Sometimes I don’t know how to say what I want to say. Luckily, I have wise and eloquent friends who can do it better than I ever could. When I saw this on a friend’s Facebook, I asked him if I could share it. Thankfully, he said yes. It’s quite long, but really worth reading. I think it says many things we don’t consider.

There is no better place to start than at the beginning: Osama bin Laden is dead.  A constant threat to the security and welfare of this nation, and the world, for the past two decades was found and killed by American forces yesterday in Pakistan.

 I’m still somewhat in shock.  I’m a member of the generation who was raised, and is still being raised, under the specter of 9-11.  I’ve grown up knowing that he was the bad guy—the villain who had caused the deaths of thousands of Americans.  Here was the face of Evil.

 Yet no man, save perhaps Hitler, is that simple.  There is no justifying his actions.  There is never a time to kill innocents.  Had he understood the Qur’an, he would have known this, for it says plain and simple that no Muslim is to kill an innocent man or an innocent woman or an innocent child.  That’s not Islam.  Somehow in his head, bin Laden was able to define “innocent” differently than I.  One can only imagine that to him, by our complacency in the actions of the United States and Israel abroad, we were all responsible at home.  He was not a stupid man by any stretch of the imagination—he was one who misunderstood the messages of the prophet Muhammad…or perhaps he chose to ignore them for his political beliefs, but he was not stupid.  He was immoral.  All of this adds to the fact that it is one thing to disagree on matters of policy—yet it is another to demonize and kill one who disagrees, or worse: one who has done nothing at all.  His political beliefs are still up for argument (Let us not be deceived by anyone: Al-Qaeda is a political organization, using terrorism to effect its goals.  Its aims are not Muslim in origin: they are extremist and close-minded.), and I admit that he made several good points in his lifetime.  Yet murder is murder.

 Where does bin Laden’s death leave us?  Is the world safer?  Should we celebrate?  First, I want to mention how asinine and flippant I find it to make pathetic jokes about his finally losing at hide and go seek.  There’s a time and place for humor: this is neither the time nor the place.  We are speaking of one of the men responsible for 9-11 (I would remind anyone that it took dozens, if not hundreds, of men to plan and execute 9-11…), directly causing the deaths of three thousand nameless Americans, indirectly leading to a plethora more in the years since.  Yet of these men to blame, he was the mastermind: he was the face to which we as a people ascribed the horrors and the pains and the losses and the sufferings with which we have had to struggle for a decade come this September.  Nearly ten years we hunted for this man, nearly ten years we sought, using the vast resources of the mightiest nation to ever exist on the face of this planet, after a single soul.  And now he’s dead; now that soul is gone.  In short, this was never a game.  Don’t try to make it that cheap.  Life’s worth is not yet that discounted.

 Too many celebrate his death as though yesterday had been a holiday.  It was not!  Now is a time to reflect upon the lost soul of a fellow human being, one who became so clouded and rotten that he identified the weak as his adversary; the darkness for his friend.  Bin Laden was many things, yet above all he was a child of God, one who lost himself.  And when we choose to celebrate, when we choose to make joy out of his death, we commit the same sin as he: we devalue the worth of a human life, one of the most precious things this universe contains.

 How many have died because of him?  That is a countless number, a chorus of angels singing in Heaven above far greater than those who lay with the ashes of the World Trade Center or the Pentagon.  Myriad lives have been lost: terrorist attacks across the world have precipitated from his blueprints, not to mention the deaths which have taken place due to the Afghanistan War.  Thus, is the fear over?  Have we won the War on Terror?  May we once again sleep easy, free at last from the night terrors which have long plagued us?

 The truth is, itself, a frightening thing: there is no end to the War on Terror.  This is a conflict that can never be won.  We stand opposed to Evil, in all its horrendous decadence.  This is not to demonize our enemies: this is to define the powers which move against us.  We have set a course to make war upon a faceless foe, one which has stood the test of time a thousand times over.  It would be the same were we to make war upon the dark.  Yet it is a struggle that must be had; it is a test of our character and of our beliefs.  And while we can never compromise with Evil, we must never be afraid to compromise with men, for that is who take up arms under the banner of (radical) Islam: mere men, pawns of a darker and more malevolent force.

 Osama bin Laden was a hero to his followers.  They saw him as a freedom fighter, lashing out against the greatest evils the world has ever known.  They saw him, with his band of men and weapons, as something of a David flinging stones at a Goliath.  They saw him as he saw himself, no doubt.  I do not agree with several of America’s foreign policies.  I, personally, strongly believe in a Palestinian state. I see American imperialism around the world and frown.  Yet the point we must understand, and agree to, is that even when we disagree with someone, we cannot demonize him or her.  We cannot misconstrue our enemies’ beliefs, and we cannot sacrifice our own beliefs to make war upon theirs.  We have treaded a dangerous line this past decade.  We have given up to our government freedoms and rights, which we shall regret.  The Patriot Act stands as a travesty of justice and liberty alike.  With the many dead, this is bin Laden’s legacy and victory: he has led us to forget ourselves.  Therefore, let us take some time in the near future to ponder just what we have let be forgotten.  Just what we have allowed to be made misty, where once there was light.

 In Osama bin Laden’s death, we have killed a single man.  We have not changed the face of history; we have not transformed the altercation in which we find ourselves; we have not won anything more than the ability to fill a single body bag.

 And yet while I do not agree with killing, while I do not support any murder: my first thought at his death was, “I won’t miss the bastard.”  If nothing else, I understand how hard it is to fight against the urge to rejoice and to instead convert that burning, fiery energy into an illuminating, warming force which can be used for good.  I’ve walked that road myself and stumbled upon a stunningly radiant land.  What I have found since my arrival is the realization that we mustn’t allow ourselves to fall in love with our hate; that we mustn’t descend to the depths of our foes: that we must instead choose to rise above that of which we feel ourselves capable, soaring higher than any would have ever thought to expect. Here, under the light of a brilliant sun, we must build our homes, working ever-forward toward the actualization of our ideals, grounded in love and exercised with charity.  Only then is there hope for our world.  Only then shall we find peace.


Celebrating Death is Never the Answer May 2, 2011

Filed under: In the News — katblogger @ 5:59 PM
Tags: ,

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know the news. Osama bin Laden, the terror of America for the last ten years, is dead. Just like that.

Here in America, it’s all over the news. Papers have headlines reading ‘We killed the bastard’ and ‘Rot in Hell’. Crowds cheer and celebrate. The nation has practically thrown an impromptu holiday over a person’s death.

And maybe they have that right. But I can’t help but feel that all of this is cruel. Yes, bin Laden directly or indirectly caused the deaths of thousands. But does that give us the right to hunt him down, kill him, and then parade the news across the country, gloating at our triumph? Does it give us the right to decide that some deaths, rather than being tragic things, are not just necessary but welcomed? Who made us gods, to decide who lives or dies?

I am not condoning bin Laden’s actions. Murder is never right – the operative word being ‘never’. He did terrible things. But we have to remember that in his mind, he was doing the right thing. To himself and his followers, he was a hero saving the world from a great evil. We just happen to be that evil.

The problem is, a belief system that calls for the destruction of a whole people can never be tolerated. That’s why bin Laden could not be tolerated, not when he called for innocent blood. But now, for better or for worse, we have his blood on our hands, as well as the blood of countless others we’ve killed in the War on Terror – guilty and innocent both.

This is why I’m not cheering as news of successful DNA tests and victorious gunfights trickles in. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from history class, it’s that we will always find another boogeyman to fill the place of the old. And that one will be even scarier, and we will be just as determined to destroy it. But at the moment we forget that our opponent is human too – full of wishes, hopes, dreams, loves, and fears – that’s when our own humanity begins to slip away.

It happened to bin Laden. Don’t let it happen to us.

This whole situation reminds me of a quote I always liked, from The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien. It’s a discussion between Frodo and Gandalf, about the creature Gollum, and it goes like this:

“What a pity Bilbo did not stab the vile creature, when he had a chance!”

“Pity? It was Pity that stayed his hand. Pity, and Mercy: not to strike without need.”

“I do not feel any pity for Gollum. He deserves death.”

“Deserves death! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give that to them? Then be not too eager to deal out death in the name of justice, fearing for your own safety. Even the wise cannot see all ends.”

Back in 2006, when Saddam Hussein died, my mother told me her religion group was going to do some prayer. “Don’t forget to pray for him, too,” I said.

Everyone is human. No one is black or white, good or evil. Everyone has a story. And everyone should have someone to mourn them, or at the very least not treat their death like a carnival and holiday all rolled into one.

If that person has to be me, so be it.


The Greatest Tragedy? September 11, 2010

Filed under: In the News — katblogger @ 7:07 PM
Tags: , , , , ,


I remember 9/11 with especial clarity because it was the day I came home on the wrong bus. The teachers were upset, we were confused, and perplexed 2nd grader that I was, I sat in the wrong line.

My mother, as any other self respecting parent would have, must have decided that the terrorists had made a special visit to the elementary school to pick up her daughter. By the time I returned home safe and sound – conveniently the driver had once done my route and knew where I lived – she was probably distraught. It was only then that I saw on TV the now iconic image of the two towers crashing down.

For days afterwards, we’d turn on the radio and hear about the towers. Exasperated, not understanding, I asked, “Are they going to talk about this for weeks?”

My mother shook her head. “They’re going to be talking about this for years.”

And so they have, and so they are. For better or for worse, my childhood has been spent growing up in a predominantly post 9/11 world. I listen, I think, and still the perplexed child in me tries to understand.

9/11 was monumental because it showed Americans that we’re not safe, even within our own borders. We saw the first example of this new kind of terrorism, which would become a very real menace. But when I hear 9/11 called the ‘greatest American tragedy’, I can’t always agree.

Tragedies can go many ways. There’s the simple numbers of the death toll. The Civil War has been the war that cost the highest in terms of American lives, and worse, it turned families and friends against each other. Perhaps it was necessary to bring slavery and secession to an end, but I wish it could have been settled peacefully…

Then there are the tragedies where the US strays from the vision it has sworn to uphold. For example, when Japanese Americans were forced into internment camps during WWII simply because of their race.

And  now, 9/11 is on the verge of fulfilling both sides. Roughly 3000 people died when the towers fell. I don’t mean to demean these deaths. Those people did not deserve to die. Their crime: being born in a country that terrorists didn’t like. If I believed in hallowed ground, that site would be sacred not to some god, but to the individuals of all faiths who died because of a war that wasn’t even theirs. It is now, though.

In the aftermath, especially recently, there’s been an upswing in irrational Islamophobia. This is a serious disconnect. A whole religion did not fly those planes. And yet… we are afraid. Of Muslims, of ‘other’, of everything. Airport security gets more complicated. We become less trustful. If terrorist’s aim is to actually spread terror, as their name implies, they are succeeding.

America has always prided herself on her freedoms. This is why we consider ourselves different from some other nations, that guarantee far less. Now attacks have caused us to turn our backs on what we defend. Demonizing all members of a religion for the actions of a few is eerily parallel – though thankfully not as bad, yet – as killing innocents because you disagree with their government. And that’s why 9/11 may be the greatest tragedy after all.


Join Me on 9/11 September 7, 2010

Filed under: In the News,Religion — katblogger @ 9:56 PM
Tags: , ,

See, this is just sad. It’s behavior like this that gives terrorists ammunition when they say America hates Muslims. So I ask all of you – which is like, three, probably – to find a Koran. You don’t have to read all of it, but take a look. Flick through the pages. It’s not full of hatred and violence any more than the Bible. Understanding is the first step to tolerance, and reading books is better than burning them.

On 9/11, visit your library, find a Koran, and read it. The Nazis burned books. Do we want to follow their example?


Mosque Ado About Nothing July 20, 2010

Filed under: In the News,Politics,Religion — katblogger @ 1:13 PM
Tags: , ,…

Apparently there’s a mosque being built near Ground Zero. Big deal. Wait, not just a mosque, a community center. It’ll have sports, a swimming pool, and yes… prayer areas. So what?

Apparently, some people think every Muslim, even those that are American citizens, are likely to start destroying buildings and killing people if we let them ‘win’. And apparently, their victory hinges on a community center. How strange.

I think the argument is something like, Radical Muslims crashed into the Twin Towers. Therefore, we will try to oppress innocent non-radical Muslims even more by preventing them from building anything nearby. Some see it as a slap in the face. I see it as a good business strategy. That community center is going to get lots of customers… assuming some radical Christian doesn’t torch it once it’s built, that is.

If we are going to say that a religion can’t build any house of worship – or community center – next to an area they’ve damaged or destroyed, non-Muslims are going to run into problems too. We can’t build churches by sites where abortion facilities were bombed by Christian terrorists. We also can’t have churches by homes that had a cross burned in their yards by the KKK. And we definitely can’t have any holy buildings of any faith by schools. That’s a scene of religion-induced mass destruction if I’ve ever seen one.”But wait,” people cry. “Surely the KKK and abortion bombers were extremist Christians. Most Christians would never do anything like that.”

My response? “Look around. Look at your coworkers, your classmates, your friends, your family. Someone in there is probably Muslim. Do you see them crashing planes into buildings? No. Why not? Because the group that does that is a radical terrorist group. It’s not the norm.”

And seriously, a community center? Get a grip, people.