Monday, May 9, 2011

Dust Kicking Up Dust

There is invariably – invariably – a difference in what we intend and what we get. It is not always a significant difference, often not enough that we even take note of it. Sometimes the difference pleases us, surprises us with a bonus for which we had not even hoped. More often, however, we get less than we had planned for, lower quality and less quantity. Sometimes we get disaster.

All of this is the result of our humanity. Adam was so named because he came from adamah, (ground or earth). In the Hebrew Scriptures adam more often referred to “man” or “mankind” than to the single forbearer of the human race, and thus could have been translated “earthly one(s).” Our word, “human,” derives from the same root as humus (ground or earth). Other important words come from the same derivation, “humility” or “humiliate” as examples. We are, of the earth, earthy.

Too often we forget our humanity when planning the course of our lives. In fact, we sometimes assume that it gives us an advantage over other creatures or over other aspects of creation. We speak of “humanizing” as though that results in elevating that which we humanize. It may, and it may not. But the point I want to make is that, as humans, we are not gods, and certainly not God. We are not all knowing, all powerful, nor everywhere present. And therefore we cannot know the end from the beginning – that which we get, as a result of our planning, will not be exactly that for which we hoped. It may be wildly different.

These thought pressed themselves on me as I read opinions about our military’s assassination of Osama bin Laden. Two Presidents have vowed to find, capture, or kill him in retaliation for his planning of the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center and several other bloody attacks around the world. It is reasonable that he should be brought to justice, if necessary, hunted down and killed, for such atrocious deeds. The assumption over the years seemed to be that he would be found, hidden away in some fortified enclave, perhaps in the remote mountains of Afghanistan or Pakistan, surrounded by armed guards who would fight loyally and fiercely to defend him, but that, in the end, he would be captured or killed. Not clean and simple, not without the loss of American lives, perhaps, but certainly a reasonable and just end to a heartless terrorist.

But things we plan seldom end the way we anticipated; we are humans, mere dust, kicking up dust, and can see no farther than the moment in which we live.

So the final moments came, not at a heavily guarded mountain retreat, not in a massive assault with casualties on both sides, but in a residence, in a residential neighborhood of a middle class city, a short distance from the capitol of Pakistan. In the final battle, no Americans died and only one of the “defenders” fired shots at them. All but one of those killed was unarmed when he or she was shot. And bin Laden himself was gruesomely killed in the presence of his 13 year old daughter. Much easier than anyone had imagined.

But then the unintended consequences had to be dealt with: how to dispose of the body of bin Laden, how to prove to the world that he was truly dead, how much of the information found at his residence to make known to the public, how to sort out the inconsistencies in the accounts of the raid, how to explain to a sovereign ally our decision to bypass them in the operation, how to convince skeptical allies around the world that our action was the appropriate one. All difficult questions to answer. We will be months in the answering.

But the unintended consequence I find most disturbing is the effect this decision will have on the President and those close to him who aided in the planning of the mission, and those who carried it out, particularly the man who killed bin Laden.

If it had gone as we have long hoped it would; if a manly fight had occurred with only bin Laden and men loyal to him dying in the fray, all involved could get a good night of sleep when it was over. But there was that girl. And there were those other children in other parts of the compound, a doctor killed, and one of bin Laden’s wives wounded. Were they complicit in his crimes? Are they living casualties of the raid?

Will that navy SEAL ever be able to remember his heroic deed without seeing the horror on a thirteen year old girl’s face as her father’s brains were blown out before her eyes? Will President Obama be able to look at his twelve year old daughter without thinking of the daughter of bin Laden, staring in unbelief at her father’s lifeless body, watching strangers carry it away.

These are my thoughts today. We are but dust, kicking up dust, never knowing for sure what we are doing. I think of all those who said, “Yes” to the mission, and now carry the horror of those moments with them. They did it on our behalf. The least we can do is pray for them.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please feel free to leave a comment. Comments are moderated and will appear as soon as possible after posting. Follow these steps:
1. Write your comment
2. Select a profile
(Anonymous or Name works best)
3. Select Preview
4. Sign word verification
5. Select Post Comment