Sunday evening I was stunned, as were many in the U.S., by the news announced by President Obama, that Osama bin Laden had been found and killed. It was even more surprising to learn that he had been living in a resort city in a million dollar fortified mansion under the shadow of the Pakistani Military Academy, just down the street from the local Police Station. Brave Special Forces Members of the SEALS in a daring night-time assault on bin Laden's compound accomplished this mission in less than 40 minutes without sustaining casualties. For many years we had been told that this mastermind of terror had been living as a primitive in caves in the tribal lands in the far north of the country. The U.S. gave the Pakistani government billions of dollars over the years to support the war on terror and locate the terror networks that bin Laden had established. Now it appears that he was being protected by some portions of the Pakistani military, possibly without the knowledge of the official government.
Many young people rushed into the streets to celebrate in front of the White House, Midshipmen at the Naval Academy in Annapolis cheered and patrons at a Major League Baseball game (watching their smart phones more than the game) burst into calls of "USA-USA!," as they stood together in celebration. Most poignantly of all -- families, friends and firefighters came to Ground Zero to commemorate. Closure, at last. A commentator mentioned that these young college students with an average age of 20 had been haunted by the attacks of September 11 for half of their young lives. It is their contemporaries who are fighting today in Afghanistan or were serving in Iraq. This country has been at war in either Iraq or Afghanistan since they were ten years old. The attacks on September 11 changed our collective national psyche. As a country, we lost our innocence, our sense of safety, invincibility and complacence in those terrorist attacks and, as a result, life is forever changed for all who follow.
President Obama was correct in his decision that little good would result from publication of gruesome death photos of Bin Laden. His somber response that "we know he is dead, we have DNA evidence, we have the photos," demonstrates clearly that he is not supporting sensationalism, case closed. Additionally, his quiet requests to use this circumstance as a basis for a shared sense of purpose and American unity sent a message to both sides of the aisle in Congress. Unfortunately this has fallen on many deaf ears as those with divisive agendas move away from unity. The President's meeting with police and firefighters in New York City today reinforced the thanks of our country toward these brave survivors of that day. His meeting with family members of those killed at the Twin Towers demonstrated his "promises kept" mantra. All knew this would not bring back their loved-ones, but it did give many a type of closure.
writing in the Washington Post discussed countering evil with good by planting a garden this week. She describes creating a new reality, setting an example and showing us a way into the future where nations can choose to plant gardens rather than support terrorists. She acknowledged the incongruity of a world which could produce an evil such as bin Laden and at the same time allow the splendor of a beautiful garden. Perhaps the choices are within each of us to choose to grow a garden or not.
Let me know your thoughts this week; are you planting a garden?