Monday, May 02, 2011

Reflections on the Death of Bin Laden

Watching the reactions of people to the death of Osama Bin Laden has been fascinating. From the aftermath of the initial report, while the ABC newsmen waited for the President, and filled up the empty time with queer speculations, the element of politics was present. Held at bay for a moment while the newsmen felt a passing twinge of shame ("it's inappropriate right now to talk of politics, but one must imagine that this will give the President a much needed political boost").

The jubilation and triumphalism followed - a kumbaya moment in which the glory of accomplishment outweighed all. But this was ephemeral, and over before it begun, quickly followed by crowds in the street chanting "USA USA USA".

And before the dust could settle on the neo-jingoism, a wave of contrition struck, with Martin Luther King cited again and again on Facebook, contemporaneous with a certain left-wing glee that the killing of Osama by Obama was spit in the face of George Bush.

Among the more idiotic reactions was that of Michael Savage, who gave Obama credit for offing Osama, but then questioned the timing. Savage even suggested that Obama timed the killing of Osama so that it would take the Royal Wedding off of the front page (Obama supposedly feeling snubbed for the lack of an invitation, and the Brits supposedly snubbing him because he sent a bust of Winston Churchill back with a return to sender note).

Where it leads tomorrow, I cannot predict. Probably into an endless discussion of the political ramifications, vote projections, political capital, and the feelings of the American Street.

But here's what I know:

Osama Bin Laden had fallen into evil. The world of man is better off without him. But, while the loss of his life is no cause for sorrow, we should (those of us who are Christians) still mourn the loss of his immortal soul - which in all likelihood, is lost forever in the gravity of the utter rejection of God. Where there is life, there is hope, no matter how thin, for repentance, conversion, contrition and purpose of amendment.

Those who killed Bin Laden (the CIA and Navy SEALs et al who participated in the mission) were acting in the just defense of both innocence and civilization. Their heroism is above reproach. You and I owe our lives and freedom to men and women such as these.

As for Obama, May 1, 2011 was the day that Barack Obama became an American President. Now, he has been for some time, the President of the United States, in that he was duly elected, and held the office and powers of that position. But prior to May 1, Obama was, like Jimmy Carter before him, an aberration, a misfit. Wielding the power, but both unsuited and unaccustomed to what that meant. He was President of a Party. Earlier that evening, at the White House Correspondents dinner, Obama was nothing more than the Comedian-in-Chief. Playing to that modern liberal doctrine that places a punchline ahead of policy. The world-view that places Jon Stewart at the pinnacle of politics. In essence, up to May 1, even through the assault on Bin Laden, Obama was so much like Jimmy Carter that only the failure of the helicopters to crash separated the two men. Much will be made of Obama's "gutsy" decision to send in the troops rather than to, ala Bill Clinton, just fire off some missiles. But Carter, too, chose to send fighting men on a daring mission into enemy territory. Had the helicopters all crashed, had the mission been a failure...?

Even in the wake of the success of the mission, Obama could have remained Carter. A buffoon whose hamfisted handling of the economy, whose twisted idealism, and whose ineffectual grandstanding led America deeper into a morass forged in the socialist policies of his predecessors. But that all changed with Obama's speech to the nation. Rather than cite Bush's failures in Tora Bora, rather than repeat his puerile pandering in the Cairo speech; rather than issue a tepid apology, Obama for the first time raised the flag of American Exceptionalism. Obama recognized that there was something different about America. He cited our Values, our Character, our Resolve, whether these things still exist or not. From the childish anti-colonialism that typified his foreign policy before, Obama changed course, placing himself at the head of the columns, and for the first time publicly, was unashamed to be an American.

Now, I cannot predict where Obama will go from here. In all likelihood, he will return to form, bowing to foreign Powers, descending into partisan wrangling and petty pandering. But at the moment of his speech, he joined the ranks of American Presidents - a leader of OUR nation, a champion for the good that is in US; not a condemnation and reproach. No matter where he goes from here, he has definitively joined the club. He has been branded with having both perceived and acted upon the most basic and inherent duty of his office: that of the Defender.

And, of course, in his speech to the nation, Obama tried to separate the actions taken against Bin Laden from actions taken against Islam. And, he recognized in his speech that George Bush did the same. Islam, he said, is a religion of peace and Bin Laden cannot be laid at its feet.

He had to say this. As did Bush. Perhaps Obama believes this, having much more experience than Bush in the nature of Islam. But, again, he HAD to say this. Could any President, Obama, or Bush, stand before the world and accuse Islam of being a religion of blood & destruction? What end would that serve?

But Islam is not a religion of peace. Islam is to peace what Christopher Hitchens is to sobriety. That is, Islam and peace are occasional but uncomfortable bedfellows. But, then, Christianity is neither a religion of peace. Oh, certainly, we are lulled into picturing the sandal-wearing, hippie-Christ dispensing platitudes, but we forget that Christ said "I come not to bring peace, but a sword," and promised to set father against son, and brother against brother. The reality is that secularism, the religion of both Bush and Obama, desperately wants the religions of Abraham, to ultimately reach a passive syncretism that leaves faith as a tepid coloration that does not interfere with the ultimate secular goals of power.

But Islam, like Christianity, like Judaism, and like Secularism itself, cannot be a religion of peace. Islam lays claim to the Truth. A Truth that is incompatible with the Truth followed by Christianity. Truths that are mutually exclusive. Certainly, Obama, Bush, and the secularists like them have been lulled into quiescence in the face of Christianity in which common Christians barter their birthrights in the marketplace of Mammon. But the innate submission of western Christians to the enlightenment only has a weak analog within Islam. Certainly, the muslims of the tribal regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan are lusty, ignorant savages, but they are more human than you and I, with our sterilized, plastic existences. I do not for a moment cede Islam Truth. But I respect that muslims have, more than Christians, resisted the secular goal of reducing humanity to efficient cogs in a materialist machine.

Like the crusaders, admiring the Saracens for their vigor and devotion (if not for their reputed civilization and tolerance - a 19th century invention by self-despising westerners), we must recognize that, as St. Augustine opined, the City of Man and the City of God are incompatible, and that more separates the pious from the efficient than separates the Christian from the muslim. We can strive for the just ordering of society, but the Christian can never be at home in this world. This is the world of man. To be at peace in this world is to bare one's throat to that very beast that can destroy the body but cannot touch the soul. In that relatively endless struggle, the Christian must deplore the death of Osama Bin Laden, adore the devotion of the soldiers who sacrifice all for the safety of their countrymen, admire the men who, like Obama, shoulder the burden of protecting the sheepfold, and cling stubbornly to their faith, remembering the promise that the gates of Hell shall never prevail against us.


Work From Home said...

Not sure I can agree with everything you say here, but this is a very interesting and well written post.

Anonymous said...

Well written, and fundamentally correct. I am not, however, compatible with the idea that we must be uncomfortable in this world...while not conforming to it (and thus finding comfort in said conformance), but rather, perhaps, (if diligent) being transformed by the Master's presence in our lives and the realization that this world is His, and He expects us to live as transformed creatures in it. This is not to counter your piece, as I believe it expertly written (as usual from your clan); but more, to simply augment and remind that we can be elated in both this world (and the next); even though I am not altogether convinced that we will be "perfected" in either - again, my favorite quote "if man's reach did not exceed his grasp, then what is a heaven for?".

Carry on in glory, in peace, in triumph and most especially (and always) in eternal joy.

-Standifer Evasto Visum

Miguel Cuthbert said...

I think I understand what you are getting at.

I have never felt so indifferent to anything as monumentally important as the killing of OBL. It's as if it happened in a different universe.

The horrific events of 9/11 have been reduced to kitsch and melodrama. Hollywood could not have dreamed up an ending more devoid of meaning. The "spontaneous" eruption of joy in NY and DC as if "our team" had just won the superbowl was the penultimate anticlimax to 11 years of frustration.

I now understand what Eliot meant by 'not with a bang but a whimper.'

jeevan said...