By Mel Reeves
“There is pride in what this nation stands for,” President Obama recently said before a cheering Congress. It made me wonder just what this country does “stand for.”
Judging from Osama bin Laden’s death alone, it would be safe to say that it stands for vengeance. Though the suave, dark-skinned, silver-tongued gentleman called it “justice,” it’s simply not true. A rose by any other name is still a rose. And the administration is shrewdly admitting that it killed Osama in cold blood as a way of garnering unconscious consent for what we would not normally accept.
“Yeah, we killed in cold blood,” they seem to be saying. And their hope was that we would respond the way we have, by saying, “Yeah, that’s okay with us.”
Needless to say, the problem with this is not knowing where the line will be drawn. Will folks who express disdain for U.S. imperialism be next?
Political assassinations were outlawed by the Church Committee in the 1970s after U.S. citizens pointed out that they were not only illegal but immoral. The president at the time, Gerald Ford, agreed and issued this executive edict: “No employee of the U.S. government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, political assassination.”
And make no mistake, this was an assassination. The order was to kill him; after all, he is guilty of resisting American power. As distasteful as Osama’s aims and tactics were, almost as distasteful were the means by which he was vanquished.
A trial would have exposed the ugly underbelly of U.S. skullduggery in the world. And, the case against bin Laden was primarily anecdotal and based on hearsay. It would have exposed political murders, U.S. complicity in torture, and downright lawlessness and thuggery in the name of making the world conducive to Big Business’ plunder and profiteering.
Ironically, very few folks cheering this murder on would have pulled the trigger. Very few of us are real killers even when provoked. And the reason is, we understand the value of life and believe deep down that above all else, it is sacred.
Those of us who consider ourselves religious — especially those of the Judeo-Christian tradition — ought to look at this more soberly. In the Talmud, after the newly liberated Israelites were heard rejoicing at the deaths of the Egyptians who drowned while trying to return the Israelite tribes to slavery, God was not pleased: “My creatures are drowning in the sea yet you have decided to sing about it,” noted Yahweh.
The Christian Old Testament, the Torah, also warns us in Deuteronomy that “Vengeance is mine,” says the Lord.
Even the bond and the affinity for skin color identification with the person in power does not usurp or supersede that which is right and moral. “I alone am God,” the prophets Isaiah and Moses remind the people.
One of our own prophets, Martin Luther King, Jr., condemned vengeance: “I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy.
Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.”
Those confused by what U.S. imperialism stands for have to look no further than U.S. domestic policy. A cursory survey reveals that the government stands for the rich over against the interest of the poor and Big Business over the interest of workers.
It stands for pitting the White against the Black and the colored, the native against the immigrant, the well off against the woebegone and the young against the old. Philosophically, it chooses retribution and revenge over rehabilitation and redemption, might over right, and expedience over morality.
Banks have been bailed out while hard-working people have been put in the street; defense department budgets have been expanded while schools have been closed and education left to the luck of the draw. A large part of Black America is imprisoned and locked out for doing what many in White America do: using illegal drugs.
Clearly some of us Israelites need to be reminded that when the tribes started emulating the Egyptians, they too were condemned to a life of wandering in the desert.
Mel Reeves welcomes reader responses to mella firstname.lastname@example.org.