This week President Obama announced that the U.S. military killed Osama bin Laden. As a response, people flocked to the White House and Ground Zero partying to the news, chanting “USA! USA!” I’m frightened and confused at the celebration of violence as a resolution to conflict, and I’m particularly hurt by a sentiment underlying this response: that South and West Asians are valueless and disposable.
Violence as a resolution of conflict
I realize this celebration is a response to a tremendous amount of pain that has been felt since 9/11. Bin Laden took responsibility for the unbelievable, horrific events on 9/11, and I am not losing sight of the fact that he should be held accountable. But how does a thoughtful, rational society hold someone accountable for large-scale acts of violence?
Bin Laden’s actions were a result of hurt and anger from racist and imperialist foreign policies that were (and still are) oppressive to his people. Since then, America and other ally countries have been engaged in a “war on terror” to eliminate people we’ve oppressed to such an extent that their anger may manifest into violent actions against us. As a thoughtful, rational person, I do not accept that to end threats to our safety, we must eliminate not the conditions that cause such extreme hurt and anger, but the people our systems oppress.
I do not accept “success” in “ending terror” being defined by who lives and who doesn’t. I do not accept killing being the resolution of difference. I do not accept that economical colonialism and American globalized oppression is not part of the conversations about 9/11 and Bin Laden’s death. Killing Osama bin Laden does not end the oppression that caused his anger. It unfortunately is not even slightly connected. The systems that created his anger are still in place.
Celebration as a response to Bin Laden’s murder shows that we’ll continue to be distracted from real, meaningful solutions to our world’s problems. We’ll continue to be confused about what a better world will look like and how to get there.
South and West Asians are valueless and disposable
No one’s death should be celebrated. Violence is not an acceptable form of resolution to conflict. I don’t care how violent someone has been against us, retaliatory violence is not an acceptable response. America does follow this line of thinking in some spheres of our country’s foreign policy, why does it not apply in cases of “terrorist camps” in South and West Asia? Because South and West Asians are viewed as a dime a dozen. As disposable. As if it doesn’t matter if we’re on this Earth or not.
America’s immediate response to 9/11 was to bomb the heck out of Iraq, letting the world be in “shock and awe” of our great power to mercilessly eliminate a mass of people at the blink of an eye. Mainstream news media here never really gave us a complex understanding of whom it was we were attempting to wipe out. Our government was responding with intense emotions and naming entire countries on an axis of “evil” (which is similar to how Bin Laden viewed America, which we as Americans felt was an unjust generalization). We were operating under the thinking that If you were in one of those countries, no matter who you were, you were of no value, disposable, and it was in our country’s best interest if you no longer existed.
We as Americans were disgusted when a video was released of Palestinians celebrating in the streets after 9/11 (a video later to be found as manufactured and fake). But the idea that a people would celebrate such an act of violence was beyond our comprehension. The idea of those celebrations sent us the message that “they” don’t really care whom it is they’re killing, they just want us blindly eliminated. Our celebration of Bin Laden’s death, though not quite the same, signals that we too approve not only of violence as a resolution to conflict, but more so of our little value for the people of South and West Asia. We approve of flying into a country without their government’s consent and deploying huge amounts of weaponry (the bomb blasts were felt 4 miles away), because America’s sense of safety, however false it may be, is more important than the people of South and West Asian countries.
Personally, I’m disheartened by what’s happened outside of the White House and in New York. I cannot accept that violence, as a means of resolving conflict, is an appropriate option. We must eliminate the oppressive conditions that cause so much anger that people are willing to organize huge missions of attack. We must seek to understand the complexities of globalized, imperialistic racism and xenophobia, and the conditions the rest of the world is in as a direct result of our oppression. Only then will we be able to think about alternatives to violence as a response to violence against us.