Being a brand designer and a marketer I have somewhat of a cynical and skeptical perspective on the validity of how large organizations are personified, both through their own efforts and the media – the U.S. government, definitely being on that list. It’s not so much that I think there’s always an intentional disconnect made between reality and how these organizations present themselves, but when a system becomes large enough, trying to pin it down with simple definitions or elegant equations just becomes plain difficult; keeping track of all the variables at play is just too hard to do, at least when described at such high levels of abstraction. What angers me is that news organizations often try to do it anyway, in complete disregard for the complexity of the problem, and often just for the sensationalist effect doing so produces.
Which brings me to the recent news of Osama Bin Laden’s death…
Now, I’m going to catch a lot of flack for this, and I welcome all of it as long as it’s critical and articulate. I’m not trying to say that this opinion is righteous or even valid, but it’s what’s on my mind and I feel the need to express it.
What I’m not going to do is comment on the political nature of this event, nor am I going to give an opinion on it’s supposed effectiveness in making our country more or less safe. I have no depth of knowledge regarding either of those topics, and I would venture to say that most people not directly involved in national defense are on the same level of awareness as I am, given the largely superficial information we’ve been permitted to consume as citizens. My opinion is less rooted in the specific circumstance of Bin Laden’s death and more in regard to the underlying morality of the situation. So, here it goes…
Given what we’ve been told about Osama Bin Laden and his intentions for the United States, it’s undoubtedly a good thing that he no longer has the power to bring his misguided ideas to life; but is it really a parade worthy event that a man has been killed! Have we really become that disconnected from the reality of what is going on to realize that we’ve exhausted all other options and are at our last resort – the need to dehumanize our soldiers by asking them to do the most unspeakable acts imaginable to other humans, while simultaneously risking their lives for said disprivilage!
I’m a New Yorker. I have family that live in Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn. You could see smoke from my town’s high school the day The Twin Towers fell, and I have friends whose families were directly effected (although, admittedly mine was luckily spared such grief). I am not trying to say the acts that Osama was directly responsible for weren’t horrendous. All I’m saying is that this man was obviously confused and, as a last resort to secure the safety of our people, it was decided that he had to be killed or at least put away. Now that that deed is done, I want to turn away from a very dark chapter of our past in remorse for all the hard work and intense pain people had to go through in order to make this happen. What I don’t want to do is go to a party wearing an american flag as a cape. Osama being killed does not make me smile. It does not make me happy. And to be completely honest it does not make me feel any safer in the long run.
The questions of how to make our world safer, mutually hospitable, and ultimately peaceful in the long run are still being quietly ignored in favor of a much cruder, inefficient, short term solution: violent war. I don’t know of any better solution, that’s true, and I’m not saying that finding one will be any easier than the most difficult problems of history. But to pretend like the brute force methods we currently employ are ever, even in their brief moments of veiled effectiveness, elegant, commendable, or at all capable of provoking happiness, even indirectly, is a lie and a dissonance I won’t foster.
I’m still sick thinking about what must go on in the countries our soldiers occupy and I’m still sad for what happened in our own country those near 10 years ago.
Osama being alive or dead doesn’t change that.