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Catharsis and Humanity

This is a rare non-tech-related blog post, and I hope you’ll forgive me for it. It’s also possible you may find it controversial, so I’d ask your patience in reading the entire thing before jumping to conclusions. There will likely be another non-tech post soon, since the Canadian Federal Election is wrapping up, but I needed to get this post out before then.

As everyone who isn’t living under a rock knows, on Monday, President Obama announced that US Special Forces had located and killed Osama Bin Laden. My girlfriend (who has posted something about this herself) brought up a quotation (attributed to either Mark Twain or Clarence Darrow depending on who you ask) which I think accurately sums up my feelings: “I’ve never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure”. There’s no question in my mind that Osama Bin Laden was responsible for terrible things, and his death has brought closure to many people. I certainly don’t fault the people in Washington DC and New York City for feeling a sudden urge to celebrate out of catharsis. One of the people I follow on Twitter, Stephen Toulouse, tweeted that “catharsis doesn’t choose a time to be appropriate” which really makes a lot of sense to me.

Despite all that, I feel… uneasy (for a significant lack of a better term)… about the way we are celebrating the death of another human being, as evil as he was (whatever “evil” truly is). I know that on September 11, 2001, there were people cheering in the streets for the death of human beings too, and I think it’s important to remember that as we go through this catharsis. Please do NOT get me wrong, I can fully understand the need to celebrate, it is human to have such a strong outpouring of relief and emotion when closure is found. For the people around the world who were directly affected by the events of 9/11, this will most definitely be an almost happy occasion, and I would not fault them for feeling that way. As I noted earlier, I myself am certainly not upset that Bin Laden is dead or even that people are celebrating that fact.

I think it is entirely natural to feel relieved and to want to express that relief, but now that the catharsis is over, we should rise above our enemies and remember that we respect all life, even those who feel so oppressed as to need to strike out violently. What Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda did 10 years ago was WRONG, full stop. However my moral code also tells me that any time a human being is killed by another, it is because of a failure in our society. I am still struggling to figure out what that means, since I too feel a lot of relief over the closing of this chapter in our history, but I think what’s most important is that we recognize this event for what it truly is: A purge of our emotions and frustrations which have been building up since 9/11, not a victory for humanity as a whole. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating the former, as long as you keep the latter in mind and reflect on what we need to do in order to achieve true peace.

Please don’t hesitate to post legitimate responses and discussions to this post below. I welcome disagreements. However, I will not hesitate to remove hurtful or hateful comments. Above all else, RESPECT each other, because that is how we rise above.

P.S. Apparently “catharsis” is my word of the day Winking smile

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