by Michael W. Petrovich
On September 11th 2001, I stood in the Pentagon as the room around me was engulfed in flames. The shock of the event, and the deaths of twenty six of my coworkers, stays with me to this day. I feel the pain of injury suffered that day, I feel the terror of what I saw, and I feel the loss of close friends and colleagues.
Recent course work here at Marymount led me to recall a particular event and how it shapes my thoughts on Islam in America. On May second, I sat and waited for President Obama to announce to the world that Osama bin Laden had been killed by American forces. This was a direct and fair response to his orchestration of his attack on the United States on September 11th 2001.
The morning after, I drank morning coffee and watched the nation’s reaction; I found myself feeling less than elated. I knew that Osama bin Laden’s actions had earned his death, and I knew that President Obama had taken a step to make the world safer with his actions. As a former soldier I knew the dedication and hard work put in by those who slew Bin Laden should be lauded. I had no qualms with the actions of the President or those serving in our military, but the reaction of the American people troubled me deeply.
I was watching a news clip of a girl, no older than five, standing in a cheering crowd. She was waving a sign that said, “yaay — Osama is dead.” I could not help but notice the similarities to the many newscasts from over the last ten years. I had watched news clips where a group of people in a distant land applauded a set-back to our nation or loss of American lives. Yes, the picture was more colorful with the red, white and blue waving in every corner of the screen. If I added cement buildings, sand and earth tones, it would have looked like all those broadcasts that made me angry to feel so despised by a people I never met.
My nerves began to build as I anticipated the political discord that was sure to follow. The President would certainly come under fire from his political opposition. I was certain they would find some flaw with his action to spin in their favor. It would be months of politicians trying to stir the public to greater like or dislike of one candidate or the other. Proof of Bin Laden’s death would be sought, and any proof given would be insufficient.
Diplomacy is often called our first and best line of defense. But I have never seen a crowd spontaneously break out and cheer a peaceful resolution. I have never seen a child with a sign that read, “Yaay — no one died.” I wonder if diplomacy is considered the best line of defense because it works or because of what it could make us if it works.
I thought about that young girl and wondered, “Is the world getting any better?” I asked myself, what we are as a people saying to that young child? What are we saying to our allies and enemies across the globe? Surely we are saying we are not to be trifled with, but are we also saying we can revel in death as much as any of those we oppose? Are we saying we can stoop to their level?