On May 1st, President Obama announced that Osama bin Laden was killed in a battle with U.S. forces in Pakistan. Bin Laden had, of course, been in hiding since he notoriously masterminded the horrific events of September 11th, 2001. And while bringing down this most wanted terrorist marks an enormous achievement for the United States military, it seems to have left a feeling of unrest in it’s wake.
Let me just preface what I am about to say with a very clear statement. I do not support the acts of Osama in any way, shape, or form. I find his beliefs to be extremist, and I agree that he was a profoundly dangerous man. But I do wonder; Does killing him bring any relief to the families who lost love ones during the attacks of 9/11? Does his death ensure that we, as Americans, are safe? Unfortunately, I think not.
If facebook is any indication, Osama’s death seems to be creating increased anxiety, tension, anger, and hostility for many people. And this makes, sense since violence breeds violence. Between the left/right battles over whether this counts as a victory for Obama, and the violent fantasies regarding Osama’s “after-life,” the social network has become a virtual land mine. Few and far between are posts promoting peace, love, and compassion, when these are the qualities that I believe we need the most.
Every time I read a new headline about these events, I’m reminded of the anti-war theme present in many of my favorite Dave Matthews Band songs. Dave, as we know, is a pacifist who grew up in a family of Quakers, amidst the backdrop of the apartheid in South Africa. Being raised in this way gave him an appreciation for the insanity of intolerance, and the often corrupt ways of authority. He sings about this in “The Last Stop,” when he asks, “Is war the only way to peace? Well I don’t fall for that.” He warns that, “Fools are we, if hate’s the gate to peace,” and laments the loss of military lives when he chants, “Mother’s cry. ‘Is hate so deep? Must a baby’s bones this hungry fire feed.’”
Dave’s poignant lyrics continue to question the righteousness of our beliefs. When our frontman sarcastically asks us to “Go ahead and dream, go ahead believe that you are the chosen one,” I imagine that he is pointing out the fact that we cannot expect everyone to share our personal agendas. We all think that we are right. And, in many cases, we are too close to the situation to see the bigger picture. But in order for any of us to find peace, we are going to have to start trying to understand each other. As Dave says when he is introducing “Oh,” at Radio City Music Hall with Tim Reynolds, “This really is a time when we need to try and figure out a way to get it together with each other. You know, because we can’t figure things out if we just turn our backs on each other.” In other words, it’s time to listen to Ghandi, and be the change we want to see in the world. Only then, can she find her way again.
Hayley Bauman, Psy.D.
Author of Serendipity and the Search for True Self